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…” 

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.

Trying To Hang On…

Trauma is weird. Repressed memories are even weirder. Nothing makes sense when you live in that world. And when you are attempting to move on with life and forget anything and everything and just try for the love of God to be normal, (or maybe sometimes, like me, stoop to convincing yourself nothing you think, feel, dream, or see is real and you are just drama obsessed and overreactive) it just gets weirder. Your body is in control at this point. You have no control. You can’t deny what’s happening to you, but you can’t seem to understand it either. And when you have been through abuse and trauma, you NEED to feel like and have some sort of control. This is where safety lies for you. Am I right? Somebody please tell me I’m right.

For months, maybe for over a year now, I don’t know, I’ve been seeing myself as a young girl of varying ages in horrible, horrific, abusive situations. It’s a blip here and a glimpse there. I have no complete story to any of it yet but the physical effects I feel with these visions are incredibly intense. Did you notice what I did there? I said visions instead of memories. I have no desire to claim any of this as real. But I think I’m to a point that if I don’t I might be stuck in this place of horror forever. I’m not there though. I can’t claim or accept this as my life so I waver back and forth between two realities. One that I used to have (bad), and one that seems to be (even worse).

I’ve researched my brains out about trauma and the effects of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse. I try to find anything that goes against what I’m experiencing to prove to myself and my therapist that I’m just a bat-shit crazy, mentally ill, hopeless attention seeker, and liar. After all, that’s what I was always told I was growing up. I’m trying relentlessly to live by this identity. If this were all my fault, I could handle it. I would be responsible. As always, there is just something wrong with me. This is familiar and very weirdly safe. I can handle this. Breathe, fix it, stop it, whatever…and move on.

What I can’t seem to get a grip on or handle is the idea that there might actually be something really wrong with me. So wrong that it causes others to hurt me, punish me, exploit me, and degrade me because I’m so awful and unworthy of anything better. This is a different type of “there’s something wrong with me.” What I described above is self defined. What is happening here with abuse is validating that definition into reality. What I don’t understand is how another human being can be so cruel and heartless. I don’t understand how God could be so cruel and heartless that He would allow one of His own created beings to behave in such a way. If God is love and humans were created in His image, then logically, this becomes my view of God, and love, if I’ve never experienced anything differently. But instinctively, I know this doesn’t fit either. Because I am not those things. I want to believe I was created in the image of love. But why couldn’t everyone have been?? Or were they, and I wasn’t? Everything feels so twisted and confusing and incomprehensible. I can’t reconcile any of it. So I twist it more and make it my own fault and failure to be whatever I was supposed to be, because that, I can swallow and make sense of because it’s what I’ve always known.

With regards to trauma and repressed memories, I have read often that there can be an unrelated traumatic event that happens in the victim’s current place in life that triggers or awakens the brain to other traumas hidden inside of them. I guess this could be the case for me. My husband has been chronically unfaithful to me, our marriage, and our children. It is something I have always accepted and hoped, after the last discovery and round of counseling, was over with and behind us. I fell into a deep state of trust, safety, and naivety and was blind to what was really going on. This is another effect of trauma. When you deal with traumatic events, you can dissociate to cope with them. When you dissociate when triggered, or chronically, to cope with pain and emotions, you become vulnerable to further abuse in the future because you are living in a different state of mind and different world. I can look at my life and it makes sense to me that this was me if I accept what I am experiencing. When I discovered again to a much deeper and twisted and offensive level the activity my husband was up to, I crumbled. My world fell apart, and not long after, it fell apart even more with the emergence of these visions (memories?) of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse that came at the hands of my father, mother, sister, a neighbor and others that I have not been able to identify yet…they are still shadows in my mind. If this is real, I’ve become incredibly desensitized to abuse. It’s normal. It’s my life. Even today. It’s all I’ve known. I don’t know what to do with this.

I have very few memories of my childhood (another effect of abuse). Entire chunks and ages gone. Nothing is there. And the things I do remember vividly with confidence often involve physical abuse, fights, weird drunken parties or sexual behavior my parents and other family members had and some family trips. I’m beginning to realize I was pretty isolated. I had very few friends. I was shy, quiet, and unsure. I asked some relatives for pictures of me when I was growing up. When they sent them to me I was shocked when I looked at them. I had no idea who that little girl was. None. I even questioned if it was really me. I didn’t recognize her. At all. My kids can look at pictures and see themselves instantly. I couldn’t do that in some that I received. It was by process of elimination that they were me. That bothers me so much. There is a little girl who lived some time ago who didn’t even know herself and still doesn’t.

It’s scary and disorienting to think this could be who I am and was. Everything I thought I knew about myself is turned upside down. I’m a stranger to myself. I question everything. I have so much fear now. I don’t trust my own judgement of people, their character, and if they are safe. I worry about my children. I’m very skeptical and am easily triggered into varying states of panic and anxiety for no apparent reason at all. I don’t want this life. It feels like a prison. I want to escape it but I don’t know how. And in a weird way I’m afraid to move forward into freedom from this because it is completely unknown to me. Unknown is a trigger and is incredibly stressful. It always has been for me, but now, I see scary things in the unknown parts of my mind. I don’t trust the unknown. It feels like a trap.

My health has significantly suffered this past year. I’ve discovered and had treatments for severe anemia. I’ve seen specialists at the Mayo Clinic and have had countless tests to try to figure out what’s wrong. I was finally stabilized about 4 months ago, only to find out yesterday that I’m right back in the “you could die if this doesn’t get under control” danger zone and severely anemic again. I feel like I’m constantly going through a cycle of putting fires out in my life. One thing happens, I stabilize it, something else happens, I stabilize it. Something else happens and I freak out from the pressure, and think only of the dark places I can go. Then I pull myself back out only to find myself back in that place of distress once again. I wonder if God will ever look at me in pity and say enough is enough and make everything stop, but He hasn’t and I begin to wonder again if it’s really all true…I’m damaged, unworthy, not even good enough for God to rescue and save and use in some way.  I feel so incredibly defeated.

I want to get out of this, though. I want a new reality so badly. One I’m in charge of for once. One that is filled with comfort, stability, safety, joy, sound sleep, health, kindness, love, and trust. I’m so desperate for peace. It feels impossible most days. It feels like a fantasy. I feel like I don’t deserve it. I feel like no one feels like I’m worth the effort to love me or help me get there. I’m determined. I fight. I like to prove everyone wrong, even myself sometimes. I’ve lost that part of me somewhere in this. I’m none of those things anymore. I feel like a failure, worthless, and weak because I can’t just “buck up” and move on. My husband even told me that if he had to pick something I was addicted to, it would be my past. But I’m not. I want nothing to do with it. I constantly try to walk away from it but at every turn I make in a different direction there it is waiting for me.

I feel very alone in this journey. Someone help me hang on, please. Someone tell me this gets better somewhere. Someone tell me they understand any of this and can relate. Someone tell me they’ve experienced anything like this. That they didn’t believe their “memories” either but accepted them and are still OK. Someone please tell me they created a new reality for themselves and they believe God really is good. I need hope. I need something, anything, to hang on to.

The Chaos of My Mind…

There are explosions going on inside my head. They are deafening. They are debilitating. They are unbelievably frightening. I don’t know what’s happening to me and I don’t know how to make it stop. I was fine and feeling relatively calm. I had worked really hard to stabilize myself over the past month and then a switch flipped and chaos erupted and I can no longer distract myself away from it.

…I see my little body standing like a statue, staring at a young girl hanging from a tree. The men are all there but no one is helping her.

…A woman stands over me in a dark, shadowy room as I stand again, frozen, staring up at her. Lights flash and I hear clicking sounds.

…My wrists are strapped to a chair and there is movement and noise behind me as someone tells me “‘this is going to hurt.” A needle moves towards my arm.

…Men stand all around me and they talk and laugh as I am laying on my back. My head is repeatedly banged against the hard surface I am laying on.

…I feel my body fly backwards and the sound of glass shattering all around me sends chills throughout my body.

…I run frantically out of the woods, breathing hard as I try to escape the stampede and shouts I hear closing in on me from behind. I fall and everything goes dark.

…There is water crashing up against the window and seeping through the cracks as I panic with no way to escape.

…The girl with dark hair stares back at me expressionless and still. Her leg is shredded and bloody and the man takes me away to a cold, dark building.

What is this? What does any of this even mean? Fragments of terror all over the place. Nothing makes sense. It can’t be real. This. can. not. be. real. What is wrong with me?? I have completely lost my mind. My body is distressed. My heart is forever pounding. I cannot sleep. I am confused and afraid. SO afraid.

Silenced…

In the past weeks my words have been frozen inside of me. I can’t speak, even though my my mind is screaming that it has things to say. When I want to get the words out, I remain silent. I fight an incredible battle inside of myself trying to muster up whatever it is I need to thaw and allow the words to flow freely again. I can’t figure out how. I don’t understand why this is.

My dreams are active and vivid lately, but dark and obscure all at the same time. They’re like blips, or a 30 second trailer for a movie. I feel tension and confusion, pain and fear. They demand my attention regularly. The visions they provide never fade away from my mind like normal dreams do. They haunt and taunt like ghosts when they want to be freed from inside of me…

…A woman, she is standing over me on a catwalk up above. I look upwards, standing frozen and still as she gazes back down at me. There are shadows all around and a curved stairway to my right…

…There are men who surround me in a living room, their laughter and joking banter echo from all angles around me. My mind is curious and cautious all at once, and I stand very still, looking around, and wonder what will happen next…

…I was walking down a hallway that continually darkened the further I went. I walked though a door and entered a dim, concrete room. There was a window past a pile of boxes in front of me that was faded and yellowed. It glowed from behind. There was a man and a woman under a blanket in the corner of the room…

…Candles are burning and trying to talk, but they can’t get their words out. The “mother candle” spoke and said “let’s open the door, that will help…”

My fingers often linger over the keyboard unable to formulate the words I’m trying to translate out of my thoughts. It’s frustrating. It feels like I’m tied up and gagged, or trapped in a cage screaming at the top of my lungs for help over and over and then falling, defeated and exhausted, into a crumpled heap of a mess in the corner when no one hears or rescues me. I’m silenced once again.