Too damaged

I spoke with my EMDR therapist last night for the first time in a couple of months. I described the problems I’ve had since the initial session, including significantly increased periods of dissociation and complete loss of memory; two onslaughts of 20-50 long-forgotten memories each; and physical pain. She told me these were major red flags because “We weren’t even digging, we were doing safety stuff. It was supposed to enhance your safety!” She told me she didn’t think EMDR would be a good idea because of the red flags. She explained (as I had found in research recently) that EMDR is most helpful for one-time traumas occurring in adulthood. With complex trauma, the brain has spent years learning to protect itself- EMDR reverses the protections and can easily send a complex trauma survivor into a tailspin. She said case studies she’s read show that complex trauma survivors have needed EMDR for upwards of 3 years before improvement is evident. She said that before EMDR, complex trauma survivors would learn to manage the feelings and memories as it slowly comes back, and would often be in therapy for years and years.

So those are my two options. Be in therapy for years upon years and feel like I do now… Or dive in head-first and break my neck because flooding is a reckless idea in my situation. Receiving real EMDR would cause my brain to break down its protections and I’d basically fall apart. She said that to help me manage my physical pain she could refer me to a chiropractor for massages and pressure point therapy, but that this could trigger stronger body memories than I’m currently having.

It is discouraging to be told I’m too damaged for a type of therapy. It’s also discouraging that I have a long long road to recovery. I am already exhausted. How much more can I endure?

The Little Girl And The Therapist

the basement

Down, down I descend into the darkness

The sound pierces my ears

Finally, I find her in the corner of a cold room

Knees to her chest, hands over her ears

She is screaming

“Hold her,” I vaguely hear someone say

I can barely shake my head

I hear the voice again. “It’s your choice.”

I am frozen as I watch her in the corner

My desire is to join her; I want to scream louder

She does not deserve this but I do it anyway

I force myself to sit on the cement floor

Cinder blocks behind me

Why is she down here?  I wonder

With no hesitation, she immediately curls into my lap

I try not to notice what she is wearing

Instead, I wrap her in a blanket and hold her tight

I kiss her forehead and she falls asleep.

And then I am crying

Restrained tears, but I am not holding her

I am in my therapist’s office

The floors are not cement; they are polished wood

There is furniture, white and black

Credentials hanging on the wall

I dare not look up but if I did, I’d see a caring face

I stare at the sand tray table instead

When the tears are over, the body memories calm

I uncurl my legs and place them on the wooden floor

My arms relax and I force myself to breathe

The girl is asleep

She will not hurt me tonight.

 

Image from http://www.askmehelpdesk.com/construction/bad-cinder-block-walls-basement-314960.html

Therapist By A Thread

“I pledge my commitment to the Blog for Mental Health 2014 Project. I will blog about mental health topics not only for myself, but for others. By displaying this badge, I show my pride, dedication, and acceptance for mental health. I use this to promote mental health education in the struggle to erase stigma.”

bfmh14-copy-e1388959797718http://acanvasoftheminds.com/2014/01/07/blog-for-mental-health-2014/

I came across this my very first day blogging and have been meaning to officially take this pledge ever since. My main purpose in starting this blog was to raise awareness of mental health and erase the stigma of carrying a mental health diagnosis.

When I am in the therapist’s chair, my clients often say things like, “You wouldn’t understand” or “I wish I had it so together like you!” I usually respond with something similar to, “I understand you feel so alone and isolated” for the former and, “Everybody’s got something to work on!” for the latter. On the outside, my job as a professional is to create a safe, one-sided relationship for my clients so they can achieve whatever goals they are in therapy to achieve. I am good at this. I am good at putting the attention on others, and I am very good at redirecting clients. I have even become a star at answering the mandatory personal questions (ie. “What’s the most difficult thing you have ever experienced?” to which I often replied while pregnant, “Making it through this therapy session without peeing my pants!”) while playing therapy games with clients. My clients have no idea of my diagnosis, and that is ethical and professional. At times, my heart breaks at their feelings of isolation, but it is not my job (on the contrary, it would be quite unethical of me to do this) to share the personal information they would need from me in order to realize that I understand them on a deeper level than the books I studied in graduate school.

But I do understand them on a deeper level. At times, I am struck by their ability to verbalize the feelings I have been working to verbalize in my own therapy for months. I actually sometimes type out what I want to say and bring it to therapy with me, in a desperate attempt to not shut down or dissociate in session. After work, I pull off my professional mask and put on my mommy mask. This includes homeschooling my almost four year old, breastfeeding a five and half month old at all hours of the night, and making half-assed dinners that at least one person will not be interested in consuming. I do my best to keep my mask on until the kids are in bed for the night, but this does not always happen; my son has found me, on several occasions, hiding in the dark bathroom as I struggle to pull myself together.

Finally, I pull off my mask and what is underneath is ugly. There are scars. There is blood. There are tears. There is anger. There is hurt. Hatred. Need. Desire. And there is sin. It is officially labeled posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It is a world that it seems nobody wants to acknowledge. There are deep secrets that, as someone said to me recently, “Our family tends to forget.”

This is why I am writing a blog. It is wrong to forget family secrets. Family secrets strengthen generational cycles so that more and more children are consumed by darkness. I have shared this blog with my real world, and many in my real world are unimpressed. Most have quietly ignored my loud proclamation from this rock I have climbed upon. I am shaking as I make this proclamation, but I am shouting as loud as I can. I am scared to speak out, but I am. I shout louder with the more courage I have, and with the more healing I have experienced. Inside I am weak and bloody, but I will not stop shouting. People need to stop quietly ignoring family secrets. Family secrets need to be exposed and changed… and healed, so that the cycle will stop. If this blog leads just one person to speak up about their scary secrets in attempt to make healthy change, my goal has been reached.

“Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them… . When anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light” -Ephesians 5:11-14.

The Therapy Room

I hate therapy. I love being a therapist. But I hate therapy. Therapy is a strange concept, isn’t it? You are in a one-sided relationship where you are expected to pour out your soul. The therapist encourages you to think for yourself, take care of yourself, and allow yourself to feel overwhelming feelings instead of run from them. The therapy room becomes a haven where you greatly look forward to feeling relaxed, safe, and comfortable; but the therapy room also becomes a dreaded place where you learn to talk openly about nightmares, trauma, and the dark aspects of your life that you would never talk about otherwise. After you experience these conflicting feelings for 45 minutes to an hour and a half (that’s how long mine are; an hour and a half), you are expected to zip up your emotions and walk out of the therapy room as collected as you were when you first walked in. It’s bizarre. It teaches “containment skills.” In non-therapeutic terms, it teaches you to wear a facade. In some respects, a facade is necessary or you would never get anything done but wallow in the overwhelming feelings. However, you feel desperately alone in the facade. You go through the motions and wait both anxiously and excitedly until the next session, where you will pour out your heart in this bizarre, one-sided relationship.

I hate therapy. It sends me into a spiral for a few days following because I hate shoving my mask back on. If I could, I would shout my trauma from the roof tops, I would announce it to the world; I am sick of wearing this mask and pretending that I am functioning on a normal level. Anyone who is hiding something knows what I’m talking about. Statistics say at least 1 in 3 of you are hiding something. I’m so sorry. That is why I write this; you are not alone. You are not the only person wearing a mask. I wish we could come up with some sort of subtle sign to wear to alert others that you are falling apart beneath the facade. That way, those not struggling would not notice, but those who needed to know they are not alone would see.

My husband will be gone all day tomorrow. Where I usually have a break with the kids, I now have them ALL. DAY. LONG. So, here’s my to-do list. We’ll see how much gets done. This is me, zipping up my mask to function and parent, and do my best to manage myself and my household. I hate this mask. I hate learning to wear this mask, and I hate learning to manage the emotions under the mask. I hate therapy. I wish I could both never go to therapy and never leave therapy, all at the same time.

to do list

The damage is done

my mind

It took a lot of courage to start a blog about my struggle (and as a result, my family’s struggle) with PTSD, and I’m not sure what I was thinking when I promptly told my real world that the blog existed… and as a bi-product, I told my world about my diagnosis. Not long after I posted the link, I began to deeply regret sharing; it’s that feeling of shame eating away at me. I’ve quickly become a part of this beautiful community of bloggers with a PTSD diagnosis; they all write under pseudonyms and if their family knows the blog exists, they have never read it. After nearly three weeks of my blogging, I can see why. I set out to make mental illness easier to talk about, but my posts on this blog have been careful; I cannot share so much of myself or I will just make myself more vulnerable than I already am.

But, the damage has been done so I may as well share. I am sharing because it has wreaked havoc on my family. I keep telling myself that we will come out stronger on the other side… but what if there is no other side? My therapist keeps telling me I need to learn to live with it, and learn to accept that I will always have these, at times, debilitating symptoms. Once I accept, then I can move forward with learning to manage.

It is embarrassing to admit to people I see every day that when my son runs and jumps on me from behind, instead of playing with him, I curl into a ball, cover my ears, close my eyes and cry. Or when my husband uses a certain tone, I hide- again, in a ball with my ears covered and eyes closed. I close my eyes so I don’t see the flashbacks, but they’re in my mind so I see it more readily. I cover my ears so I don’t hear my flashbacks, but they’re in my mind so I hear them more readily. I curl up so I don’t feel my flashbacks, but it makes no difference. My husband is afraid to listen to music in the car because he never knows when he’ll look over to see me dissociated because of a certain song. I never know when I will be triggered, and I may end up in my car in the parking lot at Target in tears because something as simple as the way someone was walking triggered me.

I am so busy surviving that it is a struggle to socialize or clean the house. It takes everything I have to meet my children’s needs.