Avoidance (177)

I think I might just avoid this one….

Ugh, I wish. I’m a big avoider. It’s something I do pretty well.

This always reminds me of way back when I did EMDR with the man who was head of counselling at my university. When I got there the first day he asked me to fill out a bunch of questionnaires/forms. I can’t remember the name of one of them, and I can’t find it online, but there were a load of pretty odd questions. He scored it and then explained the questionnaire to me at the end. It was testing trauma, maybe PTSD, I can’t remember, but there were three categories that you were scored in; hypervigilance (I scored mid range I think), dissociation (my response – “that stuffs bonkers”. I scored low. lol), and avoidance….where I scored extremely extremely high, high enough that on that section alone I would have been put in the PTSD bracket. (Not that the point of any of it was diagnosis, but just for him to get some background before we could begin the EMDR).

Back then my avoidance was absolutely huge. I had yet to find the forum where I met PC (or maybe i had just found it, I can’t remember, it was around about the same time – I think the forum was just after). I hadn’t told a single person about my childhood. Hadn’t confronted any family, hadn’t told a single friend, and was very much trying to continue avoiding the whole thing even in my own head. Because I had done that for years, and it had worked remarkably well; it got me here. But then relationships were becoming difficult, I was starting to have it confronting me when conversations between 20 year old female friends turned to stuff like sex, when I tried dating and freaked out when things progressed too far, when I started drinking a lot more because all of a sudden my brain was refusing to ignore it all and instead decided to bombard me with a fucking running background commentary on all of it. And I’d ignored it for years, for my whole life that far. But something to do with living away, having space from my family, and having it very obvious to me how differently I felt, and how withheld and scared I was, by being there as my friends relationships unfolded, made it somehow impossible to ignore. Avoidance totally failed.

That’s not to say that I don’t still avoid – I absolutely do. Last week I sent an email to my t that I wanted to talk to her about some stuff. This week I avoided going into it, and I likely will next week, and the week after, until forever lol. I’m good at being an idiot like that.

Also, a huge difficulty (I wrote part of my problem just then before changing it – that’s what it feels like, but I’m trying to be just a tiny bit nicer to myself), is what I’ve written on here about before, which is a phobia of inner experience, or easier put; I’m a wimp and scared of feeling the feelings, so I avoid doing that a lot. I could go into that tonight (it ties into my saying fine all the time too acutally…), but I think I’ve written enough nonsense for one night.

Affirmation (159)

People who have grown up in abusive families tend to have missed out on these growing up, I think. Maybe they totally clung to them whenever they received positive affirmations from people, or maybe they dismissed them, refused to let them in, shrugged them off as not truthful, they are only saying that because they don’t really understand, they don’t understand all the reasons you’re actually just terrible. Some people do both; I did. Both clung to any slight positive affirmation thrown my way, and refused to truly let it in. Voices inside my head citing off every single reason that the person was wrong to say what they did, backed up with the data of every single time everybody else said something bad to you, or wasn’t there.

Now, particularly when I’m young, I need (too) many of these from people that I have let in. (Which is not very many people – only pocketcanadian and my therapist). Sometimes my shame surrounding this feels crippling…because to me asking for affirmations – that I’m not alone, that my hurt is justified, that I’m not bad, that I’m loved, or even just that I matter, my hurt matters; all of it feels needy. It feels weak.

In both mine and pc’s circumstances, our parents are acting like nothing is really wrong. It is crazy-making. Like truly *crazy* making. I’m sure there are unfortunately so many out there that know exactly what I mean, and I can’t begin to sufficiently express how insane it makes you feel when your family are carrying on as though everything is just dandy. In my case having no doubt as to the abuse actually having taken place (after all, I didn’t tell them, they merely asked me to confirm it), but nonetheless having a family dinner complete with my abuser, as though we are one happy family. Most of the time I know that they are the crazy ones, but sometimes i start to truly question my sanity…have I lost it? Did I tell them? Am I imagining all of it taking place? Or are they right, is this just not a big deal but I’m making it into one?
This is maybe the most hurtful part of it all.

And so, my point to that last paragraph, was that having somebody by your side, rooting you on, confirming that yes, that really did happen, and yes they really are doing what they’re doing, and no my love, you are not the crazy one, they are the crazy ones, the crazy is theirs, not yours…Having those affirmations, is invaluable, and without it I don’t think I would be here. It feels like when you take the stabilizers off your bike for the first time and you have somebody running alongside you as you cycle…you’re still so scared, still unsure, you still don’t feel totally safe, but you know there’s someone right with you, keeping you going, there ready for when you fall, reassuring you.

Boundaries (97)

First thing this made me think of was a blog called Tales of a Boundary Ninja that pocketcanadian told me about a couple of years ago now. The blog doesn’t seem to be active anymore, but I know I found it helpful and pc even more so. Definitely so worth a read to anyone who hasn’t heard of it.

And as does that blog talk about boundaries in relation to the authors therapist, this word makes me think of mine.

My t has very strict boundaries, and I completely hate them. I have been so jealous of other peoples relationships with their therapists. When my friend talks about their t checking in, texts that tell her she loves her or is thinking about her, when I hear about contact during the Christmas break, I am so full of ugly jealousy. Even worse, when I read about and hear about people having their therapist come over to sit next to them during a tough session, when they rest their head on their therapists lap or against their chest, when a therapist will read children’s books or stroke their hair…. All I can think is what is wrong with me? Why won’t my t ever do that? And ugh, the jealousy, the anger, the self hated. All because of boundaries.

And her reasons are the same bullshit thats always given… Its so important to have boundaries to keep it safe, that it’s a total lack of boundaries that has hurt me so much in my life, and it’s essential that she models good boundaries.

But fuck that. It isn’t boundaries that hurt me back then, it was violent, abusive arseholes. And how can it be safe for some therapists to do these things and not her? And I bet she does it with other clients. I bet she just doesn’t want my crazy rubbing off on her. Well fuck her.

And, where did these bullshit boundaries come into play when her husband came into my place of work on Christmas eve? Yes we are a business open to the general public, but he knew who I was, I could tell, and that’s fine, I go to his house every week and sometimes we see each other, but he shouldn’t fucking come to my place of work. That sounds like bullshit boundaries that are there how and when she wants them.

eighty-four: small

this word stings.

if i had to summarize what i’m doing these days in therapy, it would be that i’m grieving. without any overt plans to do so, i’ve been in touch with a lot of the things little me felt, during the time that the abuse happened.

time and time again, i’ve thought i might die from the hurt of it. the knowledge that i, as a small child, felt terror and panic and fear and disgust and shame and self-loathing in even a fraction of the degree i’ve felt lately, brings me to my knees. imagining that any child, me, my own daughter, pocketbrit, anyone, feeling so alone…oh.

coz really, how did we do it? where do little kids put all of that stuff? how did we make sense of it then? and how on earth do we make sense of it now?

*

more so than ever before, i have been granted access to how i felt when i was small. (i say ‘granted access’ coz it’s not like something i asked for or planned or even wanted, it’s just what’s happened. like something’s been unlocked, or come undone). and the experience is not of uncovering a memory of a specific event, or being submerged in body sensations (though there have been those times, too), it’s more that i am flooded with really strong emotions, and i start to feel so, so small. my therapist has referred to it as a feeling flashback. which means that sometimes, i will find myself so so sad…unable to stop crying, and i won’t even know quite why. or i’ll be completely terrified. or edgy, or unsettled, but without the words to explain why. or sometimes, delighted (unfortunately this is less common). but the way my body feels…the thoughts that are in my head…the words i have at my disposal…belong to that of a much smaller person. it is unnerving and amazing and horrible all at once.

in the past, it has been really hard to allow myself to feel the needs of this small, young part. there has been so much shame in permitting her space in my life. but lately, like i just said, it’s like i can’t even help it: she’s there, and then i’m her. sometimes i fight it…the shame gets loud, and i feel ridiculous, and i tell myself i am being indulgent and stupid and idiotic but all that does is defer her takeover and make it even more marked and inconvenient.

being small is awful when i’m trying to parent. coz all of it hurts: our daughter’s anger, impatience, or even her normal everyday complaints, all of them feel like daggers, personal and critical and sharp. and if she is hurt or sad, her pain overwhelms me. and it is similarly awful when i am trying to be a professional, or to be an equal, adult partner to my wife, when all i want is to hide under the covers or cower under my desk; to have  people speak quietly and slowly. when i just want to be hugged and cuddled and rocked and sang to.

*

today was awful. i had been bottling up all my smallness, all my neediness, and i planned to let it out in therapy. i would let her out, and my therapist could help me to hold her, and contain her, and help her. i couldn’t do it alone and i felt so so ashamed and tired of asking pocketbrit and my wife to help me. not coz they weren’t good at it, but because they were…but because the giving/taking ratio has been so, so unbalanced this month. and, they have their own shit, their own hurt, their own pain.

and then, due to a family emergency, my therapist cancelled my appointment today. and that was that.

i spun out. fully. i was so angry, because i was reminded of how unimportant i was in her life, how pathetic i was to be so dependent on a person i paid to be present, when she had no problems dropping me with zero notice. i was ashamed of how upset i was, at how instantly tears sprung to my eyes, at how convinced i was that i couldn’t hold on (it will be three weeks until i next see her). i was terrified at having to do it alone; i have always done it alone, except now i know the sweet sweet relief of not, and i’ve come to depend on it.

and the small one could not be contained anymore. she lashed out at everyone in sight; shoved everyone away, and then when they complied, felt so incredibly bereft. the small one was panicking and the adult part of me was ashamed that i couldn’t reign her in. she needed soothing and i couldn’t, i just couldn’t, because i was furious and sad and impatient and ashamed. oh god, the shame.

i nearly let it get the best of me.

i told my wife to leave me alone, which she did, for a short while. i shoved pocketbrit far, far away. i told her ‘don’t’ when she was saying kind things, and to leave me be. despite wanting exactly the opposite of that. (honestly, no one can win when i’m like that…there pretty much is no right thing to do, ugh.) i didn’t answer when she called and i rejected her love and i ignored her. the small one wanted her so badly, but i couldn’t let her.

except then i did.

and we asked her to read.

and she did.

but not only did she read, she asked if we wanted her to read on video, and we could hardly speak to answer yes (because the answer to that is always yes). and i had to press the mute button on my end, because as she read, i was taking raggedy horrible sobbing breaths, eyes and nose streaming, i couldn’t even believe she did it never mind so easily, i don’t even know how she could, except she did.

the small one felt it, and i did too, and we were soothed. and i could hold her, because i was being held, because i was being loved, because i wasn’t left alone, despite being convinced that i should be.

and so, my gratitude for today is the opposite of small. it’s gigantic as the sea, as the night sky, as the love in my heart.

*

Breath/breathe/breathless

Free associations today:

  • The way that my kitten or my pups curl up on my chest, their little heads under my chin, and as I breathe the air passing through my nose hits the tops of their ears, and it makes them twitch all adorable, and then every now and again they’ll shake their heads. I try to move my head so that I’m not exhaling on them, but it’s not always possible. And, despite how it’s clearly bugging them, they really don’t want to move, so just put up with it. Sweet little twitchy ears.
  • Breathing in the air late at night. Walking out into the crisp cold wonders air and breathing it in. Wood chimney smoke, the smell of the cold cold air. And, the sweet summer nights. Saltiness from the sea, sweet mellow flowers, warmth, and a day well spent outside.
  • Running and running and running until you can run no more. Sprinting as fast as you can, and feeling the air burning through your lungs. There’s some sort of satisfaction and comfort in that.
  • Sufocating; my biggest fear. Being held underwater, hands over mouths and nose, things in your mouth that shouldn’t be there.
  • My grandmother in the hospital. Already dead if not for the life machines technically allowing the basic functions to continue as that of a living person. But body only, not brain. Saying goodbye. The machine pumping her lungs full of air. Its roughness, the forceful way her body moved with the oxygen. The loud harsh noise of it. Not at all gentle like the actual breathing of my dear nan. Saying goodbye to the body of somebody already dead but being made to look alive in the most grotesque way. She wouldn’t have liked it one bit.
  • The way therapists have always made a note of my lack of breathing. The way I hold it all in. One therapist once told me it made him think of tiny little baby birds opening their mouths for their mums to feed them to survive. My body was the birds and I was starving it of life by refusing to breathe. That not breathing is a way of holding all emotion in.
  • The way my flute teacher in my very first lesson made me lie on the floor and asked if he could put his hand on my stomach to try to explain how I was breathing wrong, and how to do it better to maximise the air I was taking into my body. How scared I was, but how I did it despite every bone in my body screaming at me not to. How I never looked back, how I adored this man.
  • How my t told me today to sit with my kitten and notice his breathing and then go back and notice my own for as long as I could, until I find it too much, and then to go back to my cat again. How I’m trying to do that right now as I write this.

Jealousy

This one isn’t pretty. I wish I didn’t, but I absolutely do get jealous. Regularly. And I bloody hate it. Like I said, it’s never pretty. Anyone who has (and really, isn’t that everyone?) will know the horrible, stomach clenching, seething anger and jealousy that starts in your belly and just gets noisier and noisier until it’s completely unbearable roaring for attention. I hate the fact that even when you know its illogical, when your brain knows you aren’t being fair, or that its dumb, you can’t align thoughts and feelings…you can’t just switch it off with understanding that there is no need to be jealous.

What I’ve really been thinking about is the things I get jealous of… I’ve been thinking about how I used to get so, so mad and jealous when pocketcanadian and I would be talking and then she would have to leave because her family needed her. Or how I would sometimes hate hearing about her having a good time with her friends. I would go crazy, and it has been the cause of an argument multiple times. I would tell her I didn’t matter, I could never actually matter, because I was over here, in the UK and she was in Canada, and I’m not actually in her real life. Oh god I would tell her that all the time. That she doesn’t actually care, that I don’t count, that she tells me that stuff to pacify me but doesn’t actually mean it. That she wouldn’t want to ever meet me in real life. And even though she told me I mattered so much and that she cared and loved me, I would still get so jealous of the people that got to physically see her all the time. I would try hard not to lose my shit a lot of the time, but I couldn’t always help it. I’m better about this stuff these days, because I’m more secure in knowing that I actually am important to her, I really am. But still, it crops up, and when it does, just ugh, so so much ugh.

The other people I get jealous of frequently, and they aren’t even specific people, is anyone with a loving family. It makes me enraged, to see loving parents and kids, and to not have that myself. Sometimes it makes me smile to see, sometimes (most of the time) it hurts my heart, and sometimes I’m really just jealous. How dare they get that? What was wrong with me, what did they do that I didn’t, for them to be loved and supported like that, and for me not to? How is that fair? And, I hate them, just because they got what I want and never got. (I don’t actually, that’s just the jealousy talking.) How come my therapists son got to have her for a mum? How come he gets someone that will give him freedom, but love him no matter what, and support him (in a career in art – something that would never have been allowed for me)? How come he gets a mum that will be attuned, that will care and be gentle, and be present? I hate it. I hate the jealousy, and I hate the anger. Because it’s not rational, and yet it’s still totally there. And, even though I have no real clue about her other clients, I’m jealous of them too… I bet she prefers them, I bet they get more of her time and more of her care. I bet shes really gentle with some of them. I wonder if she ever sits next to them on the sofa, or hugs them, or holds their hand? She would never do any of those things with me. And, following on from that, I’m jealous of other people’s therapists. I hear about pc’s therapist and I get so fucking jealous. I read about peoples on here, and I think, fuck, I can’t even pay someone to want to do any of those things for/with me. Ugh. Ugh. Ugh.

Finally, the last thing I’ve been thinking of is how people judge other people for being jealous. How they’re seen as bad, (and they can be if they act it out badly), but normally really are just hurting people. People wishing for something they don’t have, which hurts them. Normally jealousy isn’t really acted out, or the person tries so hard not to. It’s kept in, not given space unless it pummels its way through, and the part that annoys me is that people seem to be so quick to forget that it feels fucking awful to be jealous. Nobody wants to feel like that. It’s not an emotion that you choose…”oh hey, you know what I feel like feeling today…that bottomless, constricting, raging, jealousy. That sounds like fun”. I wish jealousy could be met with a little more gentleness. But also I know that’s so hard; the very last thing I feel like being with myself when I’m like that is gentle.

Control

This is maybe the most obvious factor that’s played out in abusive situations and then subsequently by the abused person in the rest of their life. I wish I could say I was different, but well, I’m not.

Abuse involves a lack of control. Always. A child being raped has no control over the situation and yet tries to claw at it in any possible way. I recently read the book The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog, and in it the author gives an example of one of his clients, who during a time of sexual abuse by one of her mothers’ boyfriends, would go and find him when he was drinking and act provocatively. What she was doing was simply trying to gain some form of control over the situation. By doing that she could dictate when it would happen, and she wouldn’t have to be anxious and awake all night, waiting for it to happen. It likely increased the number of times he assaulted her, but at least she had some control over when it would happen.

I did something different, and yet similar, and have always hated myself more than anything for it. I have been disgusted right to my core at myself, called myself a prostitute, a disgusting little whore, and could never hear anybodys attempts at compassion for the child I was, gaining control over the situation in any way I could. I still hate myself. When I first read that chapter in the book something clicked and I suddenly felt sad, but that has long since dissipated.

But even in the everyday, normal things, I am, and for as long as I can remember have been, a massive (and extremely annoying) control freak.

I’ve never cared if it meant I’d be doing all the work, so long as I was the one in control and doing it. My best friends used to laugh at me for it frequently… It was just one of those things about me. And actually not something I’ve ever really wanted to change about myself (aside from getting a bit better at relinquishing control over really unimportant things, which I have done).

But the thing is, I still do it to my detriment far too often in my life.

Several weeks ago I got really mad at my therapist… I took a book with me that she had given me, that we were working on, and when I got mad I told her that I only brought the book with me because I was giving it back to her. I wouldn’t do the work, didn’t want to, and there was no point in me having it. (my version of a ‘fuck you’ – you’ve disappointed me so have it back. I’m in control here, and I’m not doing anything you tell me to).

And I had refused to commit to doing the work up to that point too. I’d read the chapters a lot of the time, but refused to do any of the homework or exercises in it that she told me she wanted me to.

Then, a few weeks after giving her the book back, I went to therapy and at the end of my session asked if I could get it back (petulant child? Oh yes). That was just two sessions ago…I got it back (I think she was pleased I wanted it back), and I went home and read a few chapters and did a few of the exercises. Because this time I was in control, it was on my terms, not hers. And I went back last week with the book in my hand, full of bits that I’d written in it.

And then (I promise we’re coming towards the end of this boring story, sorry), I was panicky and young and scared last week, and I told her I quit.

I was done with therapy. Didn’t need it, was a waste of money, there is nothing wrong with me and I’m just being stupid. Really, I was just feeling all out of control of my life. My best friend was wanting to kill herself, and I realised I couldn’t help her or stop her, no matter how desperately I wanted to. My other best friend is having a terrible time with her family and yet is in the beginnings of what will be a successful career, in a long term relationship with the man I have no doubts she will marry and have kids with, and doing all of this with her own background of trauma. And then I’m here, entirely alone, unable to work out what I want to do, unable to move away, unable to feel in control of my life. I have an ex(not boyfriend, don’t know what to call him) who is pestering me to see him and that’s really just one 6 year long mess. I’ve got a family that I don’t know what to do with because I can’t seem to stop myself loving them even though i know they won’t ever be who I need or want. My brothers fiancé is talking about them having kids, which just makes me want to hurl. And I just completed a chapter in a book on dissociative disorders that terrifies me and that I had refused to do up until that point but somehow I wrote stuff and now it’s out there for somebody to read, even if that somebody is my therapist, and that scares the crap out of me.

So I quit. Because that was something I finally had effing control over. I could say, no more. I could say I was done…Except I signed a contract stating we’d have 2 finishing sessions in the event of terminating therapy (fuck it).

So I handed her the book, told her to rub all the stuff I’d written in it out (to which she said the book was mine to keep, that I mattered, and that my thinking she would just erase me from her life made her sad and brought tears to her eyes). But she took the book, swapped it out for another one that I could read this week while she reads what I wrote in the first one. And then, tomorrow, she’ll let me leave and not come back, without fulfilling the requirement of two final sessions, if this is what I want.

And now I don’t know what I want.

Going there tomorrow and saying goodbye, refusing to let her in, makes me feel in control.

Going there tomorrow and saying I’ve changed my mind, I want to carry on, feels weak. It feels very much not in control. It feels exposed and vulnerable and like I want to push anyone that comes near my heart far away.

It feels like something that I can finally do to say fuck you, I don’t need anybody, I decide what I do, and nobody gets to hurt me.

What a bloody mess, this need for control. I’m not sure how much sense this makes, it’s now 2.45am, and I’m going to take something to try to sleep, so I’m ending it here regardless…