Fear of vulnerability

There is one feeling I cannot bear: vulnerability. I don’t like people in my world acknowledging my blog posts; I wish I had never shared my blog to begin with. I feel too vulnerable. When I speak about my struggles, I avoid eye contact at all costs, even in therapy. I feel too vulnerable.

When I get that distinct feeling of vulnerability with someone, my need to sabotage above all costs overrides my desire for self-control and health. I think the only reason my marriage has stood for five years is that my husband scoffs at awkward and emotional topics; he’d rather discuss politics, sports, and his current research on finding the perfect running shoe.

I have been rejoicing over a family member who just adopted two children, and I have been watching the kids settling in for months over Facebook. Then last week, even after the adoption papers were signed, the oldest was ripped from loving arms (“hero daddy”, “Prince daddy”, her “rescuer”- her 3 year old words) and placed with one of her abusers… The only person she was adamant she did not ever want to see again. We are not sure what will happen with the adoption, but her sudden vulnerability has spiraled me into an incredible fight of my own.

Since then, the work I’ve done to move forward and establish healthy relationships has ended abruptly. My flashbacks are back. My non-psychotic hallucinations are back (seeing blood). My anxiety attacks are back. I’m frozen again. My patience is low for my husband and son. Anyone I see who has especially been kind or caring has got to go. SABOTAGE. SABOTAGE. SABOTAGE.

And I don’t know what to do about it. I used to run as hard as I could until I felt like I was going to pass out, and then my body would hurt too much to self-harm or sabotage relationships. Due to certain circumstances, I can’t do that right now. Nothing else has worked for me.

Yesterday I did my very best sabotaging with a fairly new but very sweet friendship. Because she is too sincere (another word I’m afraid of: sincerity). Her response was, ” I’m still here. And will be.” Scary words to a person with attachment issues!! So now I must pull it together, whether I want to or not.

I will stand and fight. I will not sabotage. I will take it one step at a time. Meet each of my family members’ needs one at a time. Complete one task at a time. Put one foot in front of the other, one at a time. Focus on things above, not on things on the earth. Trust God to do a work, trust that He has been working. Do my devotions. Lean on scripture. Lean not on my own understanding.

One task at a time. As unto the Lord. Because He is greater than my trauma, my symptoms, my fears. He alone is greater.

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. -Ephesians 6:12

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Hard Decisions

Mastery-Spreading-yourself-thin

I have been spreading myself emotionally thin over the past few weeks. It has caught up to me in a series of almost continuous dissociation, hypomanic episodes, angry and physically violent outbursts, and self-harm. I have opened myself up to sharing an overview of my past with five new people in a matter of weeks, in the name of finding a therapist that is experienced enough to manage my level of trauma and my symptoms. I have finally found a trauma therapist I am very pleased with, and she happens to be Christian- which is important to me right now, as I cannot heal without God’s healing hand.

She is slowly working her way into my past through a very long intake process, and has not asked a single time about my trauma. She has stated that she primarily wants me to focus on staying present during session, and when I reported (she checks in regarding dizziness every few minutes) mild dizziness today, she had me stop the intake to share the tasks I had completed that morning. It took me several minutes to recall what I had done! It was clearly a rough morning full of dissociation.

She also stated that she strongly encourages me to have a psychiatric evaluation completed and most likely go on meds, because we cannot delve into trauma work until my symptoms are managed much better than they are now. This is a difficult step for me because I am breastfeeding and I do not want to wean. It is my daughter’s reference point for everything when I am around; she uses it to connect, feed, play, and for comfort. Weaning would change our entire relationship. I am not against formula feeding, as I formula fed my first, but I fought very hard to establish a breastfeeding relationship with my daughter and I am agonizing over the possibility of having to give it up.

And… she told me it would be best if I chose just one therapist. Friday is my termination session for the therapist I have been seeing for over a year. I trust her. I like her. I work well with her. I am attached to her. I do not want to say goodbye. New therapists are sometimes necessary steps to take towards healing, but it is going to be very difficult to say goodbye without shutting down.

Photo credit: http://yellowgazelle13.blogspot.com/2011/03/getting-closer.html

The Battlefield

I have always been highly anxious and highly dissociative, but I have only met the full criteria for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) for about a year and a half. A therapist friend shared with me that it is common for women in their late twenties to develop PTSD because:

  1. The brain is fully mature and has the ability to understand past trauma
  2. Many at this age are married and beginning to have children, and either (or both) of these things could cause the brain to recall trauma that has been stored away
  3. They are safely removed from their trauma and their brains have deemed their new environment as “safe”

Whatever the reason (and possibly all three), within a period of about six months, my memories manifested themselves into visual, tactile, and auditory flashbacks. For a year straight, the only time I was not immersed in this battlefield was when I was actively working with my clients. The battlefield wreaked havoc on my marriage, destroyed two of my closest friendships, deeply injured my faith, and I nearly lost my sanity and my job. With my clinician brain, I constantly questioned my flashbacks as truth, but always returned to the conclusion that everything I was experiencing was in fact a product of real trauma I had experienced. I have only had three flashbacks that were not a part of my conscious memories, and I have one memory that is slightly different than the flashback it turned into. I find flashbacks very interesting, and I find the unfolding of flashbacks to be even more interesting… from a clinical standpoint, not from a victim standpoint.

I was in therapy at the time for general support, but I quickly found a new therapist. I spent a year working endlessly to decrease the intensity of my flashbacks and decrease my emotional reactions using CBT and DBT, but art therapy and writing became my refuges. My flashbacks and spirals decreased to a couple days a week, which I found to be far more manageable than the constant flood of feeling from my past. This is when I sought EMDR, hoping it would further reduce my anxiety and flashbacks, and would improve my current anxious-avoidant attachment style.