I’m faulty

I’m not really, I know that. But I did grow up believing it. I also grew up in an environment where expressing any sort of emotion just wasn’t acceptable. Not for anyone except my father, who of course, as “Master” and “Ruler” of his domain, could do and say and express anything he wanted to, irrespective of the impact on other people. But with my mother also in that environment, telling me to “be strong” in circumstances that only the hardest of souls could be strong in, I came away believing that feelings are wrong; that if I have feelings, then I’m somehow faulty. As if all those other reasons to feel faulty weren’t enough, there’s this as well. Sigh.

The PNT spoke about this in my second session this week. About how having feelings isn’t actually “faulty”, but part of being human. An important part of being human. Go figure?!?

I have to say I’m not enjoying my sessions with PNT, though I am learning a lot and because of that I’ll keep going to see her. (The situation with the Wonder Therapist and potentially having two therapists is as yet unresolved. I’m playing ostrich on that one LOL) Anyway, PNT spent quite a lot of time trying to get me to just sit with my feelings, and especially to get in touch with the anxiety I was feeling. I didn’t like that one little bit. By the end of the session I wanted to run away and get completely drunk, though I also understood why that was, perhaps with a degree of clarity I’ve not had before.

Of course, getting drunk, taking drugs, eating, cutting or doing any one of a zillion other things is just about trying to avoid feeling that anxiety. But you know that already. Apparently I am the one who’s slow on the uptake here 😉 And who wouldn’t want to avoid it? It’s awful!!

When I wasn’t dissociating or trying to deflect her attention with vaguely humorous comments, I did feel the anxiety. It’s hideous. Why would I want to feel that?  Apparently because having feelings is normal, and unless you feel them, you can’t learn to manage them. Hmph.

But enough about that for today. I also want to share a couple of things with you. First there’s this scarily accurate poem about a fear of rejection over at Kellevision’s blog. Check it out. Amazing. It stopped me in my tracks.

There’s also this really awesome speaker on TED Women. What she says about being true to yourself or your body will let you down certainly resounded with me. Anyway, check it out. Really great stuff.

The link between emotions and adaptions

The struggle against my maladaptive side continues. And the maladaptive coping mechanisms continue to be my first port of call. Nothing serious, just there and seemingly more reachable than anything more helpful I may have learned in my time in therapy. These maladaptive coping mechanisms have been causing a lot of stress. The constant fight, the ugly thoughts… it’s distressing and upsetting and exhausting.

I saw the PNT for an additional session the other day, in a “crisis” you might say. It wasn’t really a crisis; just anxiety and panic about the maladaptive side, and some depression settling in around the edges.

I’m not even sure what we talked about, the PNT and me. It certainly wasn’t all these maladaptive coping mechanisms. We did talk about the anxiety, and about its sources, and then she got into a whole lot of family-related stuff that, at the time, didn’t make a lot of sense. Sometimes I think there’s more “madness” than “method” in her approach, though I seem to be learning stuff at the same time.

I realized afterwards what she was saying, though – that I probably come from a long line of people who don’t know how to deal with their emotions, so it’s hardly surprising that I don’t know how either.  Yep, she’s right there.  And that, as a child, I probably had to squish down all my emotions in order to survive. Yep, right again.

She didn’t say it, but I’m guessing it’s this business of not knowing how to deal with my emotions that brings the maladaptive side out. I probably knew that, but had forgotten. I’m seeing the PNT again this week, so will see what she has planned this time around. If nothing else my sessions with her make me curious about her process. 😉

How did we get here? – Part Two

Wow. I’d almost forgotten how difficult therapy can be sometimes. After all this time I never imagined that starting with a potential new therapist could be as hard as starting with the old one. I never imagined it would bring up some familiar issues – my old “friend” fear, especially the fear that she’ll see the “real” me and toss me out on my ear.

I still like the Potential New Therapist (PNT for now, I’ll christen her, in time 😉 ). I like the way she draws attention to my tears (which is mostly what she’s seen in our two sessions together 😉 ) and asks what they’re about. I like that it makes me look inside and check what’s going on (even if I can’t name it yet). I like that she uses psych terms for things, which enables me to bring the intellectual and the emotional together. And I really like that she wants me to bring what I’ve learned so far, rather than start afresh.

But I definitely don’t like that all this is making me feel less healed than I thought I was. And I don’t like how emotionally wobbly it’s making me. I’m also not that fond of the “50-minute hour”, though it’s made appreciate the Wonder T’s flexibility with her time.

My challenge for tomorrow is to talk to the Wonder T about how to tackle all this without falling apart, and whether this is the time for that, given everything else that’s going on. I can’t tell you how scared I am. Scared. To. Death.

How did we get here?

I’m not sure quite how this happened, but I may be on the verge of starting with a new therapist.

Like many a therapist, the Wonder T is keen on me having a number of people from whom I can seek support; a “back up”, so to speak. Hence, the Back Up Therapist, who’s had not infrequent mentions on this blog … and earlier (thankfully brief) episodes with pdoc and Stone Therapist. For one reason or another, I’m not entirely happy with Back Up T, so the Wonder T referred me to someone else.

I went to a session with New Back Up Therapist last week, expecting it to be just a “meet-and-greet”; an opportunity for her to see me when I’m not wigging out, so that if I ever see her when I am wigging out, she’ll have a baseline to compare it to, if you know what I mean.

What happened was something more. Something entirely unexpected. I like this therapist – she ticks all the boxes in terms of having a personality, a sense of humour, being a little self-deprecating … oh, and mature, which I’ve realised is important to me because I don’t want someone who’s straight out of school and only just finished reading the chapter on PTSD!

But she also ticked some other boxes, that I didn’t even know existed. I like her approach; I liked the way she drew attention to things I was saying in ways I haven’t experienced before. I liked the way she paid attention to her own reactions and the space between us, in a way the Wonder Therapist doesn’t always do. I also liked that I didn’t have to relive all that heinous sh** from the past all session. I even liked the way she said, “and how did that make you feel?” without seeming like a soggy blanket or hippie therapist from the 1970s. And so I made another appointment. I don’t really know why I did that, I just did; it felt right, I guess.

I don’t know what this means for my work with the Wonder Therapist. And that’s where things start to get wiggy inside. I know that seeing the two of them will do my head in, but whenever I think about not continuing with the Wonder T, I just completely freak out. The Wonder Therapist says I should do ‘what I want to do‘, but what does that mean? I think I know, I’m just not quite ready to admit it or deal with the fall out.

Manning up

I started to write this post about how I’d stepped up (or “manned up”) this week in coming clean with my therapist. And then I realised that I’d actually “manned up” in a few situations, so thought I’d give myself a big bloggy pat on the back. 🙂

  1. I finally came clean with my therapist. Funny, I had avoided this in the session after my post, and by the time the next session (or the one after) rolled around, I felt much more able to tackle it. So much so that I barely squirmed or cried or anything – just had a “normal” (at least “semi-normal”) discussion with her about it. I’ve waxed lyrical on the benefits of talking to one’s therapist so many times in the blogosphere. Seems that sometimes there’s benefit in waiting, and not blurting.
  2. I reported a guy at work for giving me a work nerd stick that contained p0rn0graphic material. It was gross and freaked me out … It came on the back of the bad trigger at work, so possibly I was more sensitive than I ordinarily would have been, but seriously people, pornography at work? Just. Not. Appropriate… EVER.
  3. I’ve been feeling lazy and lardy and awful lately. For months actually. And then my BFF online pointed out that I used to go to the gym regularly, and it seemed to help with all the body tension. She’s right. What she said triggered a massive “a-ha!” moment in my brain, so I went to check out a new gym after work yesterday. Spur of the moment appointment to check out the gym, and a spur of the moment decision to sign up. I felt really motivated while I was there, so I went again this morning. It really brought my focus back to my body, and made me aware of all the places I’m carrying a ridiculous amount of tension. Of course it also made me aware of how much condition I’ve lost, but I’m hoping this will ease as I get back into a fitness regime, and (hopefully) gain some of my fitness back. Thanks BFF! 🙂

I also bombed my therapist today (as in ‘last minute bomb’ or LMB – kinda love it when we get to throw them occasionally) – “Why do you always ask the hard questions at the very end?” she asked. Ha ha! I asked her about my intense fear of abandonment and can she talk to me more in “intellectual terms” about it. I’m desperate to understand it, though I do fear it’s a bit like therapy in this regard – that if I stop intellectualising and just go with it, I’ll start to get better. Of course, I’m not sure what the “it” is in this situation. I guess that will be top of the agenda for next week…

Coming clean

I talked to a friend about my last post and everything that was going on. She said some things that really hit home.

First, that the dissociation I felt – the separation between the semi-functioning adult and the crying, hurting child – was sort of normal. I say ‘sort of’ but I mean normal, or normal for someone like me – someone with my history of PTSD, now under huge stress (think dead father, mother with cancer and in hospital coming up to six weeks, new job … need I go on?), with a little bit more stress piled on top and it all went to sh*t. So yea, kinda normal… kinda that thing Back Up Therapist called “climbing Mount Everest and complaining that it’s cold,” only on steroids. No wonder that when Little Kid Me was hurting so badly Grown Up Me decided not to feel anything at all.

The second thing is that I haven’t been entirely honest with my therapist about how I’m feeling, or what’s been going on. She of course doesn’t realise how scared I am or how stressed, because I haven’t been telling her. In fact she thinks i’m doing amazingly well. Guess I got her fooled, huh? My friend hit the nail on the head – and made the little Wonder Therapist homunculus in my head start jumping up and down – when she said that my therapist “isn’t a mind reader.” I forget that sometimes because she’s so good at reading people.

I haven’t told her about the dissociation. I haven’t told her about the way I’m stuffing those emotions away and hiding them behind my old friend food, and my new friend internet shopping.

I haven’t told her how scared I am about not having her there to support me. That the thought of this changing just terrifies me.

I haven’t told her because I’m scared she’ll think badly of me. She’s been talking about how well I’m doing, and yet, underneath, I’m a quivering mess. I don’t want to disappoint her. I don’t want her to judge me and I don’t want her to dislike me. That’s the truth.

And when my friend reminded me of the almighty explosion that inevitably occurs when you continue to stuff the emotions away…I was reminded of the reason I went into therapy in the first place – I’d been stuffing the emotions away and there was an almighty explosion. Apparently I’m on the fast track to doing that again, if I haven’t already.

Clearly I need to come clean with the Wonder Therapist.

Struggle City

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.