I’ve Come Full Circle

Over the past few weeks, I have begun to return to normal… Or how I felt before I started actively having flashbacks. I was highly anxious, but I was not falling apart. I was functioning. I was earning a Master’s Degree, planning my PhD route, serving in church, being normal. And that’s how I have been lately. Anxious, but able to overall live and enjoy living. I cleaned my house (which is now a disaster because I took Mother’s Day off of cleaning). I started running again for the first time since my PTSD took over. I am playing with my kids. And I’m polishing my novel in order to attempt publication. Isn’t this what I wanted???

A. Big. Fat. NO! I originally went into therapy to decrease my anxiety, not to take me through hell and land me right back where I started. Trudging through the depths of hell that looks an awful lot like a carpeted basement was supposed to make me come out farther along in the end. Help me make better relationship choices. Decrease my anxiety. Improve my relationship with my parents. Nope. I’m right back where I started.

I was spending time with my husband the other night and thinking, “Wow it’s nice to enjoy his company with no PTSD symptoms!” And then all of a sudden I was hit with this brick of overwhelming anxiety. The same anxiety from 1.5 years ago. I recognized it instantly and my stomach has been in knots since.

Is this really where I’m supposed to be? Am I really going to have to manage symptoms for the rest of my life? This might be better than being curled up in a ball with my ears covered, but I do not want to live with this anxiety the rest of my life. This is not MY anxiety, this was done to me; this is other peoples’ shame. I did not cause my mind and body to react like this to the smallest of triggers!

Since then, I have gone running twice. I have decided to bring music both times. Usually I run without music to clear my head. But I turned on Christian radio. As i ran I would hear phrases about God’s sovereignty over my life, Him making the best choices for me, and how important it is to trust Him. And I realized that the only difference between now and 1.5 years ago is my feeling of betrayal towards God. My faith used to be strong. But now I question His character. Maybe He wants me to suffer like this for the rest of my life. And to make the best of it. My phone was stuck in the case and I couldn’t shut the music off so with every phrase I could feel my throat closing harder; I could feel my tears welling up; I could feel my chest becoming heavier. Finally I let out a sob. I wanted to fall to my hands and knees and begin crying but I kept running. I needed to get this feeling out and maybe I could run harder than my pain.

This feeling is still in my chest. The “What in the f*ing hell do you have for me, God?!” feeling. But I am not ready for it to escape. I am not ready to fall apart on my hands and knees. I am not ready to look like a child who is tantruming and begging her Heavenly Father for reprieve.

So if you are on the trail and see a woman collapsed and sobbing, it’s probably me. Sit by me. Hold my hand. Hug me. Tell me it’s going to be okay. Tell me I will not be fighting these demons for the rest of my life. After all, they are not even my demons to fight.

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I decided to find another therapist

This time a Christian and a specialist

She explained dissociative disorders

In a way that was less frightening

And gave tips on teaching my son to be mindful

I walked away both comfortable and okay

And as for my primary therapist

I guess it’s time to say goodbye

I cried in front of her a few times

That’s so rare.

I mean really really cried in front of her

She normalizes my struggles as a parent

Normalizes my struggle with self-harm

The part of me that carries anger

Trusts her.

So rare.

She normalizes my transference and says

“You can always keep me in your back pocket”

When I am dissociated

She teaches me to walk down into the dungeon

And pull my little girl out

She addresses my little girl

And that is what I need at times

She gives me a juice box and sometimes two

Last time even a granola bar

Because I didn’t eat breakfast

And now I must say goodbye

I felt so safe with her

When do you choose to find someone new

When the choice is safety versus

More specialized treatment?

Will I heal with this new person?

Or will I fall apart with every

time I must separate from someone I trust

For the rest of my life?

Am I making a good choice?

What if I miss her?

Am I stupid because I have attached?

I quit once because I realized I was attached

And now I must leave for good

Where will the rage inside go

If I am not safe anymore?

I need a hug.

And. My. Therapist.

Photo credit: http://the1bookblog.blogspot.com/2010_05_01_archive.html

Mentor Lost And The Discombobulated Attachment Style

I think I recall learning in undergrad that only about 25% of people in the US have a secure attachment. That leaves the rest of us with anxious-avoidant, anxious-ambivalent, or disorganized attachments. The anxious-avoidant attachment style is characterized by unhealthy disinterest in attachment altogether. Those with an anxious-ambivalent attachment style over-attach themselves to people. The disorganized attachment style is considered the most destructive of attachment styles, and is marked by an unpredictable mix of all three of the previously mentioned attachment styles.

Though it was 2007, I recall learning these attachment styles with great clarity, down to which seat I sat in (second row from the right, second seat back- I am really a front row learner but embarrassment during undergrad led me to the second seat instead). At first, I thought the anxious-ambivalent fit me, and then was struck by how well the anxious-avoidant fit. Finally, my breath stopped at the disorganized attachment style; that was me!

Having a disorganized attachment has led to some doozies in relationships, namely with older mentors. I seem to have a need that I believe an older mentor would fill, and they do for a while. Inevitably however, they tire of my constant combination of neediness and withdrawal- often at the exact same time.

This has happened more than once, but my most recent mentor strikes the heaviest chord. Why? She tried the hardest. She held on for 35 weeks and 3 days; 2 days shy of 8 months. For 8 months, she reached out daily with phone calls and emails, I suppose hoping that her persistence would allow my anxiety to settle a little.

As much as I desired a healthy mentoring relationship, I could not allow someone to see my vulnerability. This goal to sabotage the very stability I desired was met with newfound vigor when she caught me in a public bathroom crying about a friend who had been killed by a drunk driver- she held me while I cried. I knew from that point forward that I could and could not trust her, both at the same time.

To say the least, our relationship became discombobulated and ended very badly, just over 7 months ago (7 months and 3 days to be exact), unfortunately with no resolution, closure, or discussion. We ran into each other a couple months ago, and with a passing touch to my forearm I knew she still cared. I hope and pray that one day a healthy friendship will be restored between us. That she’ll forgive if she hasn’t already- holding onto hurt is not her style. That my cycle of destroying the very human relationships I most desire will end.

I love and detest my disorganized attachment style. It keeps me safe, yet it ensures relationship is not how I will come to heal (and still it is how I most desire to heal). It is both my best and worst quality that has come about as a result of my trauma.

I believe only the Lord can handle this and not walk away. But I both love and detest the thought of trusting the One who watched and allowed my trauma. I am told to trust Him; I pray to trust Him. Only He can change my heart, and yet He has not. I keep searching for Him. Perhaps it’s the search He desires from me. Perhaps it’s the search He will use to heal me. I pray relief comes quickly before I destroy any other relationships in my wake.