Running Away…

I’ve remembered something from when I was a little girl. In my memory I’m standing very still in the woods. My father is standing next to me with his strong, thick hand wrapped around the back of my neck. The canopy of the trees cover us and in the distance I see a girl. She is lifeless, hanging from a tree. Her arms and legs dangle and her neck has fallen to the side causing her long, wavy dark hair to fall over her face. This image is burned into my brain. It never changes, it visits me frequently. There are also men standing around in the woods in the distance. She was all alone. No one was looking at her. No one was helping her. I don’t understand why no one was helping her. The grip of my father’s hand tightens around my neck and I feel an incredible amount of confusion inside of me. I also remember running. Running like crazy through the woods. I don’t know if the two memories are connected or not. I ran so furiously my heart was beating so hard I could feel it in my ears. Sheer panic. Footsteps thunder behind me as I try to get away from something. Someone. Yelling and commotion, like a stampede, closing in behind me as my little body tries to escape. I was out of control and I crashed down to the ground. Everything goes black.

I ran away two weeks ago. I am overwhelmed, scared, panicked, desperate…to get away from the stampede of emotions that engulf me. My heart pounds through my ears. Sleep evades me. I feel sick. I am sick. My body is distressed. My heart is stressed. I’m exhausted and devoid of any life. My emotions and feelings terrify me. I don’t understand how to feel and not be afraid. Afraid of being hurt, assaulted, beaten, thrown, dragged, tortured…ignored.

So here I sit, stunned, two thousand miles away from my reality, trying to understand what’s happened to me. Why? Why me? WHY?? What now? Who am I? Where do I even belong? Does anyone even care?

There are people here who have rallied around me. They’ve scooped me up and said “Let us help you. You matter. We’re proud of you.” They’ve asked me to talk and they’ve listened to the tiniest fraction of my story and they have cried, cried, and said “This is too much. You have dealt with too much.” They don’t even know. But I don’t cry with them. I sit there and wonder why they do.

It feels so awkward and foreign to experience what I am. I feel guilt when anything I say upsets someone. I shut down. I can’t accept their emotion or sadness for me. I don’t understand it. This is my normal. I live in fear every single day. I’m constantly scouring my horizon for danger and disruption. It seems as though my job is to only please others. My body to be used. My emotions to be criticized and discarded and silenced, buried deep where they can no longer be accessed. They mean nothing. I mean nothing. Tossed aside until I’m useful again. This is my normal. This is the way it’s always been. No arguments. No protesting. No resistance by me. To be loved was to accept the way it is and to live is to not deviate from the routine. So I push away the kindness and try not to make a mistake and trust…it seems very, very dangerous…and I continue to run away, looking for peace and solitude. And I wonder. I wonder how far I will have to go to be able to stop running.

Something…

I’m feeling something. I’ve been feeling something for many days. I don’t know what it is. I’ve thought about it and I can’t figure it out. I’m antsy and restless, agitated. I’m in a daze. Everything around me is fuzzy and unclear. I feel like I am in pieces. Thoughts and images are scattered everywhere. I’m fragmented. Numb. I say those words and they feel like the right descriptions, yet, I don’t exactly know what they mean or what they are describing. I’m just…I don’t know…

I sat with my therapist last night for the first time in 10 days. It was a weirdly excruciating ten days for me. I don’t know why. I was thinking a lot. I fought hard the feelings of dependency that have been creeping in. I told myself over and over that I’m fine, I can manage the overwhelm I was feeling, and figure it out. He’s my guide, not my lifeline. I can’t depend on or need him outside of my scheduled sessions. I try very hard to just be and sit in whatever I am experiencing until I can process with him again. But this time, I couldn’t. It was too long of a space in between. Too much happened. I had remembered too much and felt too many things and despite my awareness that this was happening and all the steps I took in the meantime to prevent complete overwhelm and shut down, I froze. Right there. With him.

It started out fine. I was able to talk about some things that were weighing on me but then he moved on and said something I don’t even remember and I switched. Complete shutdown. And the rest of the session I sat there listening to him talk to me about how this is real and I’m not making it up or lying, but unable to talk back or ague my side. Physically incapable. Too many emotions or thoughts, feeling unsafe maybe, I don’t even know, sent me into a frozen state. And there I sat for the rest of the session. My mind was so full it was empty. It all cancelled the other out. So many emotions equalled no emotion at all. I left feeling like an epic failure because I couldn’t pull out of it and afraid to ever go back because I never want to experience that or have it happen again. I failed on so many levels for myself and for him. I wasted his time. I wasted my money. I wasted an opportunity for me to move towards something…understanding, healing, decompression, just the opportunity to TALK…

Our time was up and I realized he had tried for an additional 30 minutes to pull me out of this. I was praying that God would just interrupt, show up for me just this once, please, and make him end the session, because I couldn’t. But instead I heard my therapist say “I’m not budging. I want to hear what you have to say. What are you thinking?” Thanks, God. I was feeling so tired and flustered and out of control. I wanted to talk. I wanted to say every thought rolling through my brain but I couldn’t find the words. And eventually they were so muddled together I couldn’t even find the thoughts anymore. I finally mustered I had nothing to say and then again that I was tired and then again that I had to go, at which point he finally said “OK.”

I went to my car and drove away, stunned and angry and relieved and sad and flustered and numb all at once. I stayed away from home until after 1am. I just sat and thought about the evening. I tried to figure out what is happening with me. I tried to understand. I sat in complete dark and silence for a very long time hoping something would come to me. I wanted to scream and cry and run away and even just die but nothing would come out. I was feeling that something again.

I now realize I’ve felt this before. This something. It eventually turned into a feeling of impending doom. I knew there was something bigger lurking inside of me about to come out…and it did. I don’t know how to do this. I don’t know how to cope. I’m stuck in that land between. That world where I want it out and to know, but at the same time, please just go away and let me be! I don’t know how to pack things away anymore. I’ve lost that skill. I can grasp it for a little while and have normal hours…sometimes days…where I feel ok and under control. But it’s persistent and it comes back and taps my shoulder. I shudder, my eyes afraid to look. Are the ghosts of my past lurking back there? There’s something waiting to be seen. I feel it…I feel…something.

Hey, Little One…

I saw my therapist twice last week. It wasn’t planned that way but something happened in my first appointment that left me overwhelmed and a little rattled. We ended our session rather bluntly, in the middle of me recalling something pretty upsetting. He is always very good about making sure I don’t leave his office in a state of distress. He watches the time, because I rarely do, and he takes the time to ground me and bring me back into the present moment if I need it. But this time, he lost track of time and he needed to go. I was reluctantly ok with that, as I do respect his schedule and hate being or feeling like I’m a burden, so we ended. It was just really hard and took some serious effort to pack things away. He offered to meet again later in the week if I felt like I needed to, so I took him up on that and we did.

That was a bizarre session for me. We were talking about different things. I had previously gone two weeks without seeing him and I was still trying to catch up, as a lot had come up internally, and at home with my husband. Nothing felt threatening and I was not really thinking I would be processing trauma that day. The conversation was balanced. We were talking about me feeling pressured to make certain choices, and fear issues, and some upcoming travel plans, which led to a conversation about my parents. He asked me a question and I answered it including details about locations I have been remembering being in with people I don’t know yet who they are…in a large house, out in the woods, a concrete building, a tunnel, in a car. “Wait, what tunnel?” he says. More questions came and before I know what’s happening, I was knee deep in a memory about being in a dark car with a strange man, in a tunnel. Tears started streaming down my face. I had no idea why. That’s all I saw. The car. The tunnel. The man. Another little girl. Nothing horrific. But the tears continued flowing and I started feeling something in my face. My face was burning. The pressure was so intense. The bridge of my nose hurt, my cheeks hurt, my sinus’ hurt, behind my eyes hurt. Was my body remembering something related to this that I could not??

What the heck is happening right now??  Why am I crying? Why does my face hurt? What just happened? How did I get here??

He asked another question. And another. My words shut down. I couldn’t talk anymore. And all I hear in my head is this small little voice screaming…screaming, in complete panicked terror… Stop talking! Stop talking! STOP TALKING!!!! 

WHAT?!?

STOP TALKING!!!!

He obviously could see in my face that something big was going on inside my head. So he prods to get me to talk and tell him what it is.  I eventually mustered out I’m trying to understand what’s happening right now. Why am I crying? Why does my face hurt? There’s a voice in my head screaming at me to stop talking. “What voice? ” A child’s voice. “What is it saying?” She’s screaming…screaming...stop talking! Why can’t you talk? Who’s telling you not to talk? You are an adult. No one has any control over you. You can tell me what you see. No one is forcing you not to. You are in control. You make your choices. No one else is here with us. You are safe here. I started to feel so overwhelmed and angry and just wanted him to stop talking because I couldn’t do anything that he was telling me to do.

I have read in many books about trauma about the concept of our “inner child.” I never really understood or bought into the idea. It sounded a little out there to me. Psycho mumbo jumbo. Weirdness. But I was wondering in that moment…is this for real? Is this my voice screaming? Is “younger me” telling me to stop talking? That it’s not safe? Is “she” keeping me quiet?  I felt so crazy and wondered if I had hit a wall and was losing it in this moment. But I was curious at the same time. But I still couldn’t talk. I was shut down. And this is where the session had to end.

In my second session things went similarly. He went back to the memory and we talked a little more about it. He was asking questions again and I said something about water. Water? And just like that, there I was again in another place I had not seen before…except I realized later I have…parts of it in a dream. Being a normal human being, he started processing himself the information that I have been sharing. He starts to talk about the sheer amount of trauma I have experienced and how many layers there are and how my stories are like things you just read about happening somewhere else. “This is so unbelievable…it’s believable,” he said. As I listened to him process, though, I felt defensiveness rise up in me. I start thinking, What do you mean unbelievable?  Which was a curious reaction in and of itself because I don’t even believe myself. Oh no, he’s right, and I’m right, this isn’t even real. It’s too out there and crazy. I’m nuts. Go home. Just shut this down and GO HOME.

He doesn’t believe us…he doesn’t believe us!! Stop talking!

US?!?  What is wrong with me??

And there the little voice was again. Telling me to stop talking. Protect myself. Don’t give anything else away. Get out of there. Run. And I shut back down. It was an immediate response. My therapist eventually said he thought it was interesting that I said “stop talking, he doesn’t believe us…”  I paused to think about this and asked him (and myself) in exasperation, “Who’s us??”  He looked back at me and said again he thought it was a younger version of me trying to stick to the same old protocol I was taught as a child…to stay silent. “Is that even a thing?” I asked, and he shook his head yes. He told me he doesn’t really focus on or talk about that kind of stuff because he sometimes dislikes these types of psychological theories that are taught. But he explained it more in depth in that moment because he said he knew I needed to hear it, and to try to help me make sense of what I was experiencing.

One thing he told me that stuck out was, when looking back at memories from the past, we see them different ways. Sometimes, the things that come to me, I see from the vantage point of me looking down and witnessing the situation. Other times, I am actually re-experiencing something and see what I saw or feel what I felt in those moments. He described our inner child as a navigator and to look at those times when I see things as an outsider looking in on a situation as “younger me” showing me what happened. This really impacted me in a big way. I use this type of “remembering” as my proof sometimes that this stuff, this abuse, didn’t really happen to me. That I’m just making it up. Because how could I know what I looked like in that moment if I was the one who was experiencing it? I wouldn’t see it like a movie. I would remember how I experienced and felt it, right? I couldn’t actually see it. But younger me can take adult me by the hand and take me there and say, “Look…look what happened to us…”

I’m not sure I buy into this idea 100% yet, but I am definitely more willing and open to exploring and experimenting, and will maybe even talk to and interact with “younger me” from time to time as my therapist suggested. Is she the key to unlocking the mysteries inside of me? Will she show me more or help me connect more dots? I don’t know. But for now, I want to welcome her into my life. I want to know who she is and what she needs because I have no memories of myself as a child. I don’t even recognize some pictures I have of me, as me. I am curious enough (and desperate enough) to see if learning how to draw her out of hiding and engage with her will help me heal like all the “experts” on this sort of thing claim. I want to know who I was so I can understand myself better now.

Hey there, little one…don’t be afraid. It’s ok. Do you need to talk? Do you have something to share or show me? It’s ok. You can trust me. I’m safe…

And as I wrote that I heard in my head “I’ve heard that before…” 

Discomfort…

I am a mess of stuck emotions right now. I have so many things to say I can’t say anything. I have tears bulging, pining to flow like rapids in the spring. I have screams twisted up in a lump in my throat. I have anxiety pumping fiercely through my heart. My hands are shaking and my body is tingling with nervous energy. My breath is hot with anger as I inhale deeply trying to keep it from exploding into a fire-y ball of hysterical chaos.

Little by little these feelings stuck inside of me are leaking out, like a slow drip or the barely audible whistling of air escaping it’s containment. I become painfully aware of their tactics to escape. I do a little patchwork here, apply a little duct tape there, to try to maintain composure and hold it all in. But the pressure is building. The faint whistles want to become like the blaring screeches from water boiling in a tea kettle, and the drips, a raging waterfall crashing down on boulders below. They are pushing and pulling, looking for their way out. But it’s too much. I’ve never felt this way before, or really ever felt anything at all, and now, now it’s everything at once and more than I feel I can handle. The fear of the unknown has infiltrated into the act of feeling itself.

Fear leads to numbing. That place of safety and solace…for me at least. Numb is where I like to live. Numb is where I go when I don’t know how to cope. Numb is my friend. Never failing, never hurting, always available at a moment’s notice. I slip numb on like an oversized fuzzy bathrobe and pull it up close to my chin. It envelopes me in comfort and coziness and I become oblivious to the reality around me as I snuggle in and fade away. But now that I know numb exists, I don’t like it. I wasn’t aware of numb before, so it worked out just fine. “What you don’t know doesn’t hurt you…” Right? Wrong. Now I know all about numb. And it’s not a good relationship anymore. I see all the red flags. The warnings. The patterns. I need to let go of numb and move on. But I don’t know how.

It’s interesting how this picture of emotion perfectly explains my conundrum in my life right now. My feelings mirror the reality I’m living. It’s a perfect storm. I’m faced with so many important, life changing decisions. Do I stay with numb (pretend happy marriage, pretend kind and loving father/mother/family) or do I go with emotional chaos (end pretend happy marriage, return to abusive father/mother/family) and live forever afraid I’ve given up too much and created a new conflict and chaos that’s just different (traumatized children now in a broken family, financial ruin, no more family connection anywhere)? How do you even choose? I know what I’m involved in now.  I’ve survived it and could probably continue to. But I’ve lost my comfort in it. The bathrobe is matted and old and full of holes. It’s cold and drafty now. It rubs my skin raw and offers no protection or warmth. I’m becoming…exposed. And exposed is not at all comfortable or desired when you’ve been hiding out in numb your entire life.

Finding Themes…

I’ve been thinking about the memories that I have been having. They are dark, ugly, and intensely horrifying. Sometimes, I don’t actually think on purpose, they just come in to my mind. Others times, I try to make some sense of them, which I have also learned not to try too hard to do. They perplex me. They make me feel…I don’t know…bad. That’s all that comes to me right now. I feel bad. I feel bad for thinking them. I feel like a bad person. All the time.

Last night I was out with my husband and my mind wandered as he drove towards home. I thought about the themes that my memories have displayed. There are buildings. I have several memories of being driven to, taken to, and carried to buildings. I also have memories of being in buildings, not knowing how I got there. They are sterile in nature. Concrete walls. Dark, gray, eerie, gloomy. One is brighter on the inside, with light yellow walls and smooth white floors, like a scientific lab, with gray beds that look like hospital stretchers lined up along the walls. The windows are long and narrow and line the top of the walls…too high for me to see out or others to see in from the outside. The frames are black and splits each one into two rectangle shaped panes. In this building I am sitting with my wrists bound to a chair. The feeling in my body is totally gone. I feel nothing. I only see myself in this chair and a woman standing in front of me, slightly off to my right side, with long dark hair. She is wearing a white lab coat and is holding a large, thick, long needle that moves towards my arm. She says to me, “This is going to hurt.” I remember nothing after that.

In another very dark building, I remember laying on a very hard surface that I want to describe as concrete. My first memory on this was violently and repeatedly getting my head banged on that “concrete table.” When I remember this, I feel the jolts in my body and the sickness from what was happening. I was a child. Maybe 9-10 years old. I don’t know for sure, but that’s what it feels like. I want to cry but I’m too scared. I don’t know why it’s happening or who is doing it but I sense maybe it could be my father. I am not sure about this, though. There is unbelievable rage happening all around me as my body is pounding up and down and my head ricochets upwards with each rhythmic growl and grunt I hear coming from the one who is hurting me. In my second memory involving this table there are men surrounding me. I see their shadows and I can hear sounds but can’t make out specific words. It feels like a dream. A man stands between my legs and repeatedly thrusts his body into mine while gripping my thighs with what must be very large hands as I feel them tightly wrapped around my entire leg, or maybe I am just small compared to him. I am gone emotionally. I don’t know what I am feeling…nothing actually, I just see this happening. I also see a doorway to my left, with a white glow coming from beyond, as I lay there and stare at the darkness above me.

In other memories I see hallways and tunnels. In one I feel my legs dangling as someone carries me away and in another I am walking down one and enter a concrete room with a dingy, yellowed window, with 8 small panes. There are boxes all around me and a man and a woman under a blanket in the corner. In another memory, I see myself in a vehicle that stops in some sort of dark tunnel at a “toll booth” type building. There is a girl with dark hair inside. The man driving the car brings her into the car. There is a gap in memory here, but he later lifts her out of the car and back into the booth type building. The next thing I remember is looking out the car window and seeing her stare at me and look down at her leg. I look too and her foot is missing and her leg is bloody and hanging in shreds. She isn’t crying. She just stares at me. The next thing I remember is a man driving me away through a tunnel to another building.

I had another memory of standing in the woods. Everything is brown. There are leaves on the ground and tall trees surround me. In front of me, to my right, is a girl hanging lifeless from a tree. Her long, dark, wavy hair hangs down over her face and dangling head. Her shoulders are slumped and her feet are bare. There are men standing all around. One standing right next to me (my father?) and others further off at varying distances into the woods. There are three men talking near a gray pick-up truck that is parked in front of a concrete block building with long dark windows at the top and a black steel door. I don’t move. No one is helping her. No one is even looking at her, except me.

I had a dream about 10 days ago that involved my husband and children. In my dream, he was driving us all somewhere and he passed out in the car. I jumped into the drivers seat and managed to get the car pulled over and stopped in a church parking lot. Then he gets out of the car and started wandering and he disappeared around a pond and passed out again. I send my children away and told them I would call an ambulance. The children drive away and my husband is wandering again and fell into the pond. There are many people around and it was raining. My phone wouldn’t work. I started asking people to call 911 for me but no one would acknowledge me or help me. I went into the church and asked someone else and they wouldn’t answer. I was crying and walking all over the church, into the dark hallways and into the basement trying to find anyone. I was panicking and wet and my husband was missing and in the pond. I asked some children to help me. They just looked at me. Everyone I asked just looked at me. I asked a woman to call 911 and I think she did so I went back through the dark hallways and basement to get back outside to look for him. I had no shoes on and found some outside the door and went looking for my husband and the police. No one would talk to me. There were people and pick-up trucks in the pond but they were not looking for him. I didn’t know what to do. No one would help me or talk to me and I was frantic and scared and just looking for help and no one would help. I woke up at this point of the dream and I just cried.

Buildings, dark hallways, basements, needles, lab coats, groups of men, pick-up trucks. Driving in tunnels. Other young girls in distress with no emotion on their faces. Never knowing what’s going on or where I am or how I got there. It’s all in my thoughts and memories and dreams. I was piecing it all together last night and finally broke the silence in the car and asked my husband if he thought my father could have been part of a cult. He simply and quickly said “yes.”

His answer surprised me. I asked him how and he listed all the activities my father is involved in and how “cult like” they are. I felt stupid for asking and dropped the subject. My feelings now are still “I’m bad.” How could I even think something like this? I don’t even know if any of this is true. I have no concrete proof outside my thoughts and I am constantly second guessing everything I say, think and do. This…me…is crazy.