Healing Obstruction…

Over a year ago, last spring, I realized I was seriously struggling with an eating disorder. I had discovered and learned enough about my self that I could finally, clearly see the patterns of triggers I was experiencing and my reactions to them. I struggled with how I wanted to handle it, but I knew it needed to be addressed and sought additional therapy outside of the current therapist I was/continue to work with.

I researched extensively options in my city for programs/therapy that specifically addressed and treated only eating disorders. I knew I had potential to be a complicated situation with my abuse background and the current patterns I was seeing in myself. It wasn’t textbook behavior where one could look at my patterns and say “oh yes…you are struggling with bulimia, food avoidance, or binge eating…here is the perfect treatment program for you,” at least not from what I could discern from my own research into eating disorders. It turns out, my hunch was correct.

I mustered the courage to seek an evaluation. This was hard for me. I felt like a complete failure. I went to the appointment and spent three hours filling out questionnaire’s, answering question after question, and telling my story of abuse from my childhood and also currently in my marriage. The intake therapist seemed overwhelmed. She even said “you have so much you are dealing with…wow…” which was validating, but also overwhelmed me again. She admitted she didn’t know how to diagnose me on a clinical level, as I fall into many categories of disorders, but she settled on Anorexia Nervosa, not because I am underweight, because I’m not, but mostly because of my exercise patterns at the time…which she considered excessive and of a “purging” nature. This only created more confusion inside of me, as I thought this was the one thing I was doing well for myself and my healing, an attempt to take care of myself.

I agreed to continue in the program and meet her recommended therapists for me. Yes, I said therapists…plural. So now I had three therapists I would be working with…and a full time group therapy recommendation as well (which would add another therapist, or more) that I could do as inpatient or outpatient. She was recommending inpatient. I immediately said no. This frustrated her, which frustrated me, but I stood my ground so she put me on the waiting list for the outpatient group program and told me we could continue to discuss the inpatient option as we got started and I would probably begin to see the value in it. I thought I already said no…??? I began to feel like maybe this wasn’t what I needed in the moment, it felt too controlling, but I told myself to keep going and give it a chance, I’m not the professional, so I did.

I met my first therapist. She seemed ok. She asked about my story and my past. I told her what I could without losing my composure. She asked for a lot of details in her follow up questions that were very hard to answer to someone I had just met and had no idea if she could be trusted or not. I left the appointment triggered, upset, and with no plan or treatment goals or idea of what was coming next. But I trusted the process and went back the next week. When I arrived, she picked right back up where we left off…asking more questions and again pushing the inpatient program, which I declined again. The session was about to end and she then told me she is referring me to a new therapist (what?!) because she is starting a new job somewhere else.

This news was frustrating to say the least. I was angry they assigned me to a therapist that they knew would be leaving. And I considered leaving the program at that point because the thought of having to share my story again was just too much. But I felt like I needed the help, and hadn’t really connected with or fully trusted her so I went back the next week to meet the next therapist taking me over.

I went through the same routine with this new therapist. Told my story, received the same “wow…that’s a lot” reaction, and uncertainty of how to “handle” me since I refused to go through the inpatient programming…again. But I know it takes time to settle into therapy and build trust so I continued to see her. But things quickly fell apart again. I would show up for appointments and she would not. I would reschedule and then they would get cancelled. I would finally see her and she would change the programming, adding in new diagnoses to my my file for depression and anxiety (duh…I thought that was basically a given at this point in my life) that then complicated my treatment plan, somehow, which seemed weird to me since these issues often accompany eating disorders. After weeks of missed/cancelled/inconsistent appointments, I was internalizing the chaos and beginning to feel like a burden. I expressed frustration and was told again, she was transitioning to a new position within the organization and they would be recommending me to yet another new therapist.

At that point I asked for an appointment with the program director, which they obliged. I met with her and told her how maddening my experience had been and how negatively it had impacted me. She asked me again for my background and I found myself divulging my abuse story again…which I hate telling and talking about, or thinking about, for that matter, and was wondering why this was something she needed to know. Having reached the end of myself, I tearfully told her that if I was going to move forward with the programming, I needed a therapist that could handle the complexities of my situation. Someone who was well versed in the abuse I had experienced in my childhood and marriage and how that was contributing to my current struggles and my desire to not be assigned to a “new/baby” therapist. I needed someone with solid therapeutic experience. I was no longer willing to be a “this will be great learning experience for a new therapist” case. She said that my request was completely fair and that there was a new therapist coming on board in a few weeks that would be a good fit for me if I was willing to wait…but in the meantime, I could work with another new therapist joining the program as well and in the end I could choose which one I wanted to stick with. This seemed like a lot of work for me…and more storytelling, which I was not interested in. But I agreed anyway and she set up my appointments.

The transition therapist was completely new to the profession. Not even licensed yet. She had no clue what to say or do. She did not read any of my file before meeting me. The exact opposite of what I requested. I left the appointment completely defeated and never returned back to the center. The damage that was done to me emotionally during those three months of trying to seek help was huge. I know I still haven’t recovered from it and as I continue to struggle and process I’m beginning to wonder if there was more to it than I was previously realizing.

Something I recently remembered was a persistent request by all of the therapists I saw (five total, plus the program director) to have access to my current therapist. Something inside told me not to disclose this information, so I did not, and said I was not interested in coordinating therapy between them and him and that I would handle communicating any information I thought he needed to know, was recommended to disclose, or I thought was important to my process with him.  Immediately with the first therapist there was a lack of respect for my decision…just as there was for not wanting to be admitted to a hospital for treatment long term. And each subsequent therapist also asked for the same access and told me that they would need to coordinate treatment with him. I refused each time they asked for any information they could try to get out of me about who he was.

Why was this so necessary? I get the concept of it…which is not what they presented when asking for the information…that all therapists treating me could be aware of what was happening and coordinate and share information. But that wasn’t their stated goals. They “needed” to speak with him and know who he was and direct him in treatment on his end that would compliment theirs. I’m wondering now what exactly this was all about.

I have read in my research about trauma and abuse, and have heard many personal accounts, that victims beginning to remember and exposing their abuse publicly are targeted to intimidate and silence them. I am beginning to realize that many things that have happened, and I have experienced, is opposition to my disclosures. I have been belittled, threatened, and abandoned by family. I am followed. I am called on the phone. I am texted. Strange and triggering items just happen to appear in environments that have no previous connection to my experiences. I have been approached on the street. My home has been broken into. I have been assaulted. My email has been hacked and YEARS of email communications have been deleted and removed from my account. My blog was deleted and temporarily shut down and it took a tremendous amount of work to get it restored. My husband constantly needs to know where I am and will full on stalk me if I do not respond to his calls or texts until he hears from me. I feel like I am watched 24/7 and have just completely accepted this as normal…this is my life.

It does not seem out of the realm of possibility that my seeking help to heal and break abuse programming gets obstructed. I literally get followed by a car that matches my therapist’s…sometimes by a man who looks like my therapist. This probably means something that I haven’t figured out yet. Or maybe I have. Maybe I am supposed to be afraid of him too? I have thought of that. And I have panicked MANY times about my time with him, the information I have shared, and if he is trustworthy. What if he is obstructing my healing as well? What if he keeps me stuck? What if our sessions are monitored? So many questions…

After years of weird experiences, I could be putting two and two together…or continuing to be crazy and paranoid…

Speak Little Ones…

C’mon baby girl…just cry.

C’mon little one…it’s ok.

C’mon sweet child…hold my hand.

C’mon teenager…you can be brave.

C’mon young adult…fight through the fog.

C’mon beautiful, strong woman…you can do hard things.

I know you feel stuck, because I do too. I know you have so much to say but are too scared. I’m scared too. But I want to know our story. We can do this. We can get through this. We can find safety and be free. Tell me what I need to know. Help me put the puzzle pieces together. Show me everything. I don’t want to be confused anymore. We can do hard things together. We can write a new story for ourselves. We can be free. Don’t be afraid. Just speak.

Enough…

I am not good enough.

I am not beautiful enough.

I am not smart enough.

I am not healthy enough.

I am not calm enough.

I am not sexy enough.

I am not skinny enough.

I am not brave enough.

I am not intentional enough.

I am not educated enough.

I am not engaging enough.

I am not happy enough.

I am not conforming enough.

I am not liberal enough.

I am not social enough.

I am not fun enough.

I am not wise enough.

I am not old enough.

I am not respectful enough.

I am not playful enough.

I am not helpful enough.

I am not experienced enough.

I am not kind enough.

I am not generous enough.

I am not compliant enough.

I am not steady enough.

I am not obedient enough.

I am not relaxed enough.

I am not quiet enough.

I am not bold enough.

I am not skilled enough.

I am not loving enough.

I am not important enough.

My voice isn’t enough.

I am never enough…

My “not enoughs.” I have lived with these shadows over me all of my life. One person, after another, placed these umbrellas of darkness over me, one by one, and I’ve believed them all. I’ve made decisions about my future and the paths I would and wouldn’t take in my life based on these “not enoughs.” This is the place where I have sat…and still sometimes sit.

I received an email from my sister this past week. It was horrible. It was mean. It was frustrating. I was told I’m the reason for all our family conflict. I opened up a Pandora’s Box and called out the abuse of my past for what it was. My parents have rallied the whole family together to rise up against me and shut me out. I’m an outcast. Standing isolated and alone. I’ve tainted the picture of perfection they try to maintain. I’ve crushed and ruined their lives.

I’ve received several emails like hers from my parents over the last year. I’ve been called a liar, a fake Christian, controlling, crazy, a terrorist, insane, ugly, troubled, that I’m not liked and don’t like them, I should be ashamed of myself, a seeker of a drama, horrific, a perfectionist living in a bubble of perfectionism, that I have no compassion or empathy, I’m hurtful, I don’t care….and on and on…

What do I do with this? How do I even respond? Should I even attempt to defend myself again?? Would they even listen to anything I have and want to say? Does it even matter? Why do I care???

I care because of my “enoughs.” I care because I don’t want to be those things anymore. I’m tired of others dictating who I am and am not. When do I get a say? When do I get to define myself? Who even gave them permission to speak over my life and dictate its direction?

These “enoughs” can not be my truths. They cannot be who I am. They’re someone else’s opinions I’ve held onto as my truths. I didn’t know any different. Not anymore. I want to be enough.

This Is Trauma…

I’ve been reeling inside my head all day since my therapy session this morning. It was a lot of the same conversation we’ve been having. “You’re not a liar…what would you be gaining from this…I believe you, I don’t think you are making this up,” and the same physical reactions from me…I hear hard things, get asked questions I’m too scared to answer, go into frozen, can’t talk mode, my foot bounces with anxiety, and the tears start streaming down my face. Today I couldn’t turn them off. Not like I usually can. I was frustrated that I couldn’t stop crying. In fact, the tears have mysteriously begun falling right this second as I begin to process my thoughts.

This is trauma. Right? These reactions are the way the body speaks about what happened when words can’t be found. I’m sitting with that today, and when I think about it I begin to panic. I feel trapped in a situation that does not allow for any good outcome. If I accept these memories as real…accept that I am not lying, being overdramatic, over sensitive, reading into things too deeply, and they’re actually not real memories, what happens to me? This is what I’m ruminating over in my head…I’m negotiating the consequence of my acceptance. If I move through life and accept it all, tell my story, maybe share what I’ve learned, and it’s all wrong…I’m a fraud. I’m a liar. God detests liars. What will He do to me when judgment time comes? Will I be sent away from Him? Will I be punished? Will He turn His face away in disgust? Will He reject me? I’ve realized today that this is my fear. What are the consequences…how will I be hurt? How will I be used? How will I be abandoned this time?

This is trauma. Right? Expecting the worst in every situation. Weighing the pros and cons of every move and decision you make because you fear for your safety and your life. You don’t want to ruin anything good you might have. This is how someone thinks when they have been abused over and over and over and over again. This is how that person lives their days. Every day. Afraid of everything. Afraid to disagree with their abusers or the voices in their head for fear that they would be found or hurt or tortured yet again. To go out and live on your own and walk your own path is very dangerous. It’s walking away from a normal that should have never been. It’s an enormous fear of the unknown, even if the unknown is promised to offer freedom from pain and hurt. When all you know and have adapted to for the entirety of your life is the opposite of free and safe, you can’t imagine a life with hope. It is change. Change brings hurts. Surprises lead to torture and torment and death. Why would you willingly walk into change? Why set yourself up for the damage and chaos you’ve known to come with every walk you thought you were making into something better?

This is trauma. Right? The inability to trust. Anyone. At any time. When the ones who were supposed to model love and trust and security are the ones who turned you into an open door for exploitation, humiliation, degradation. They handed out the key to your body and your heart for themselves and others to go in and take a piece for themselves…to steal your soul…and leave you empty and worn, scarred, and stained…worthless. Why would you trust a God who says, “Come, follow me. I have something better for you. I will give you love. I will give you comfort. I will protect you.” All that was learned up until now was that these calls to follow…to take a hand in trust…lead to very dark, scary, impossible situations that had no means of escape. How do you even begin to trust? How do you risk even one more time? Why would you? So you stay in your prison cell of fear. Because at least you know that. At least you know how to cope with that. At least…

This is trauma. Right?

Abused.

Used.

Thrown.

Smashed.

Hit.

Tortured.

Burned.

Hair pulled.

Trapped.

Tied.

Bound.

Isolated.

Ridiculed.

Drugged.

Slapped.

Silenced.

Secrets.

Let down.

Rejected.

Chased.

Special.

Penetrated.

Suffocated.

Sodomized.

Afraid.

Confused.

Terrorized.

Chosen.

Raped.

Abandoned.

Voiceless.

Empty.

This is trauma. Right? This is me. All of it. And more. I see it. I feel it. I understand it. I know it. I want to look at it. I want to fight it. But I fear it. I fear for my safety. I fear for my sanity. I fear for my future. I fear the unknown. I fear acceptance. I fear being wrong. I fear the consequence if I am. I am the animal in the cage…afraid to walk out the open door. Too afraid to take one more risk. Too afraid to trust again. Too afraid to believe I can have something better than this. Too afraid to believe God can redeem something so ugly. Too afraid to speak my truth because speaking truth has always been a very bad, bad choice to make. This is trauma. This is trauma. This is trauma. This is trauma…

This is me. Afraid to move. But what if…no. Don’t hope. Don’t go there. Stay still and quiet. It is safer here.

This is trauma. Right?

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…” 

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.

Leaving A Legacy…

I’ve been sharing a little with my therapist about my feelings of wanting to end my life. I’ve been feeling this way for months. We argue about it, he tries to switch my thinking and paint a darker picture of what the end result of this would look like rather than what I will face in moving forward with my life. His points are valid, and though I try, not really arguable, so I shut down and stop talking because I don’t know how to explain what I need to say. I love my children. I would hate to hurt them and abandon them. It would be messy. On a logical level, I get that. But for some reason, that doesn’t motivate me as much to want to stay anymore. Sometimes, the thought of me leaving them seems more attractive to them (from my perspective) than being here in the state that I’m in right now.

The last time we talked about this he asked me what I wanted my legacy to be. He probably asked me this to distract me from my negative thoughts. It didn’t work. I immediately started thinking of what I perceive my legacy currently to be, and that just became greater justification to act upon my current state of mind…to get out, and end it all. The pressure building up inside of me is so intense. I can’t figure out what it is. Or how to release it. It’s becoming unbearable. It’s the heaviest of weights. I feel trapped with no way out. It’s getting darker and scarier and more and more confusing. I think I’ve actually really lost my mind. I haven’t ever felt this before. I feel like I have no control and no where to go to escape the torture I feel. I’m completely frozen yet completely on fire all at the same time. I’m afraid of myself and who I’m becoming.

My therapist talks a lot about dissociation when he tries to explain why I feel or remember things the way I do when I can’t find any understanding of it on my own. I still don’t grasp the concept of this or how it works so I’ve been reading a lot about trauma to try and find answers to help me understand myself better. I was reading the other day and came across some things that resonated with me. One author was discussing the impact of our inner critical voice and stated that it causes us to contemplate suicide. She also states that the critical voice is also hope-phobic. It doesn’t want us to hope because disappointment is so excruciatingly painful and it’s very good at predicting the worst possible outcome. She goes on to say that having no hope, the critical voice doesn’t want change. It doesn’t believe change is possible. I feel that sometimes. Another author I was reading touched on suicidal tendencies as well. She states, in reference to past childhood abuse and resulting dissociation, “Fight and flight driven aspects of the self that are suicidal or self-harming developed as a way of increasing the child’s sense of having some control (“If it gets too bad, I can die—I can leave—I can go to sleep and never wake up”) and may continue to have strong self-destructive impulses in the context of loss or vulnerability.”

I’ve been thinking about this a lot the past couple days and I wondered if this feeling of wanting to escape, to end my life, is not necessarily because I can’t endure or cope with the “whatever it is I’m experiencing feeling” as much as it is a symptom of what I have experienced. In a way, that perspective shifted my thoughts around my desires. They’re there because something happened to me. It was a way I tried to cope and have control when I physically didn’t and I’m using this strategy again now as an adult as I relive some of what happened to me as a child. I felt a small twinge of freedom from the stronghold this desire to end my life has had on me. Maybe this quote about another woman I read about experiencing something similar can explain better what I’m trying to say. “…As she began to label the panic symptoms as “memories” and refrained from either “believing” them or exploring them (just noting that they were not a reflection of her present), she found that she was less overwhelmed by them and more able to reassure her traumatized child parts (and thus, herself) that “it’s not happening now—you are just remembering how afraid you were…” (source). 

So as I translate this information into my own experience, I’ve begun to wonder if these suicidal thoughts are actually “memories” of past distress as I sift through the ones that are continually surfacing from the depths of my mind. Even if they’re not, and I am truly feeling all hope is lost for me, which I genuinely feel sometimes, it releases some of the pressure somehow and frees me from the desire to act on these thoughts to a certain extent. I don’t know if this makes sense to anyone else, but it clicked with me on some level.

I’ve been in a very low emotional state for some time now with a very strong “flight” desire burning within me. With this new thought process digesting, I realized I need to take whatever steps I can to prevent myself from unknowingly trying to reenact these suicide attempts I made as a child while dealing with my seemingly very traumatic past and the emotions and thoughts that are coming with that process. I don’t really trust myself right now. I think it’s because I don’t have a conscious awareness of ever feeling this low or lost or confused. Without explanation, I asked my husband to remove all the medications from their normal places in our home and put them away somewhere. He did it without asking questions and I appreciated that so much. I think he’s smart enough to understand why but he didn’t make me tell him.

When I was 12 years old, and my parents were out at the bar, I sat on the floor at 2am in my bedroom closet and methodically swallowed over 100 aspirin. I was horrifically sick and violently vomited for days and my parents did not take me to the hospital or my primary doctor. They left me alone at home during the day while they continued on with their lives and went to work. I don’t remember what I was feeling or thinking, but it must not have been good as I went on to repeat the process again only a couple weeks later. Again, my parents neglected to care for me and this time around even barked at me for vomiting in my bed and cracked jokes that I was “still sick.” They never knew why I was and I never told them or tried swallowing pills again.

When I think about what I want my legacy to be, what I leave behind for my children to treasure and what others would remember me for, it doesn’t look at all like my parents do to me now. My inner critical voice speaks loudly to me that I am a failure in so many ways. Because of the neglect and abuse in my past, and the emotions (or complete lack of them) that I experience, I too have neglected my children unknowingly on some levels. As I realize more and more why I live the way I do, as a reaction to my past, I feel more and more damaged and inadequate. Compound this with the feelings of abandonment by my husband and his lack of love and faithfulness, it makes for an impossible situation to feel anything but inadequate and like a failure sometimes. But on a different level, I have this information now, and I can use it to change for the better in ways I didn’t know I needed to change before. I don’t know if I can articulate yet what I would like my legacy to be when the end comes and that’s all that’s left of me here on earth, but I hope that my children and others would see me as authentic and bold and brave and learn that one way to honor God is to continually strive to be real, balanced, healthy, and the best we can be. I genuinely want to keep fighting to see what God might have in store for me. I want my children to see my faith and watch how God can work bad situations out for our good. I believe He can.

It’s hard sometimes to cling to that hope offered from God. I don’t always do it or find comfort in my faith or His promises in my circumstances, obviously. I’m easily overwhelmed and anxious and scared and skeptical that God actually cares at all about me. It’s hard for me to trust. And I think God requires full trust in Him. I haven’t learned how to do that yet. But I can’t leave that journey of discovery behind if I cut myself off from fighting and trying. So I guess I’m still trying to fight for control and my freedom, just in a different way than my mind has been trying to convince me to do. I hope I can stabilize in this place for awhile and as I get overwhelmed with doubt or become distressed, because I know I will, I can remember that maybe the feelings aren’t real in my current moment, but are a memory from my past and old ways of coping and surviving. And I hope I can also remember that if I made it through then, I can do it again now.

Burdens…

I’m losing all ability to stay in control. My mind is racing and I’m questioning everything about myself. I used to like who I was. Completely in control and confident in myself and my roles. I was an amazing wife who kept a beautiful home. I was told I was a great mother over and over, that I ran a tight ship and my kids were so well behaved and polite and smart. I wasn’t afraid of paving my own path and doing my own thing and bucking the system here or there to prove I could be different from where I came from. I was proud of who I was.

I didn’t know what was lurking inside of me. I didn’t know I was a fraud and a fake. I didn’t know I was a shell around a ticking time bomb of dysfunction. I didn’t know that really, I was just like them. I have made mistakes. I have done horrible things. I think I have destroyed people’s lives for the sake of trying to save my own. I didn’t know my actions were because I so desperately needed to be seen and be loved. No one stopped me and told me they cared. I was told to just conform and let it all go. They looked the other way. And now, they don’t even look at me at all.

I didn’t know I would become the greatest burden I never wanted to be. I didn’t know I wouldn’t be able to keep it together. I didn’t know I wasn’t fit to be a good mother. I didn’t know I wasn’t good enough to keep my husband faithful. I didn’t know I wasn’t worth the time or effort to be loved and honored and cared for. I didn’t know feelings weren’t acceptable. I didn’t know I would be so rejected. I didn’t know my brain would fail me and deceive me. I didn’t know my heart would either. I didn’t know!

If I had known, I would have never brought children into this world. I would have never gotten married. I would have never adopted another child. I would have never tried to confront those who have hurt me. I would have never attempted to heal. I would have never become the burden that I am right now. I would have never allowed myself to lose control.

I didn’t know I was weak. I didn’t know I wasn’t worth anything. I didn’t know I didn’t matter. I didn’t know I couldn’t be different. I didn’t know I couldn’t be better. I didn’t know I was invisible. I didn’t know I couldn’t endure. I didn’t know I couldn’t be me and everything else they wanted me to be. I didn’t know I would need to be known. I didn’t know I needed to be listened to. I didn’t know I needed to be loved. I just didn’t know…and now that I know, I feel like the burden I never wanted to be.

Stuck…

I had a conversation today that left me feeling weird. Unsettled. Like I was more stuck than I actually felt I was to begin with. I can’t pinpoint exactly what spun me out of control. In my world of chaos nothing seems to make sense. I try to process and address the issues that come up. But then something else barrels in that throws me off balance that I wasn’t expecting and I need to reprocess everything again. To make sense of it or try to understand, even if there is no way to do that. This sounds very vague, I know, but I want to believe there is someone out there that understands exactly what I’m saying.

Why is this a bad thing?? Trying to understand trauma and process it is hard. Especially when you don’t always believe yourself or have confidence in your own memories or experiences, past or present. When I have been taught over and over and over that my reality isn’t true, perceived correctly, or am manipulated to think my life is normal and nothing is out of sorts, why should I just assume when you tell me it’s not, or something that happens “was totally expected,” that your voice is the right one?

Because I didn’t expect it. I didn’t know it was going to happen or that it follows the pattern of abuse because I don’t always connect it as quickly and I don’t want to believe this is happening to me. I’m still learning this, remember? Why does it feel wrong for me to want to be sure about something before believing what you tell me? Why downplay my feelings in the moment and say something dismissive like I just need to “move on” or “focus on me?” Aren’t I doing that by trying to gain understanding? Is it really that hard to listen to me process out loud or revisit something again?

Maybe I just need to hear over and over and over that I’m not crazy. Maybe I need to hear more than 5 times (or 100) what the pattern of abuse is and that’s what was happening again. Maybe I need to hear it like it was the first time hearing it. Isn’t that how I learned to conform before all of this chaos began to emerge? Maybe it will take me 5 years of hearing this to really believe it when that information competes with 40 years of learning and hearing something different. Maybe I need to stay in this spot a little longer before “the next step” in my healing so I really understand what has happened and can begin to accept it because I feel really confused and unsure right now about everything. So why would I move to the next thing when I’m not even sure where I am in this moment?

Maybe after having a brain scan that verifies and validates I have trauma markers from the past and present was really a lot to absorb when all along I’ve been trying to find ways that I was wrong that this all existed. Maybe I need more answers to my questions about that because a ten minute explanation wasn’t really enough. Maybe. Maybe not. All I know is that I feel like I was hit by a truck two times this week, even though what happened in the first incident and what I learned in the second were both “expected.” But it doesn’t mean that it is as easy for me to move forward and move on as it is for you.

I still have voices in my head that yell at me from the past. And they still yell at me in the present to try and maintain control of me. I’ve just learned to recognize these voices. I’m still learning that maybe those voices are not what I’m supposed to be listening to or following. It’s a process. It’s my process. Sometimes I just need to revisit and reprocess and think about it again. Not because I’m trying to spin my wheels and stay stuck. But because I’m trying to spin them out of the mud, and sometimes that means moving backwards to reposition the wheels so the treads can grip something new to pull me out.

Please Rescue Me…

Dear God, today I’m not so sure we’re ok. I don’t understand what’s going on in my life or what it is you want me to do. Love my enemies. Surrender. Trust. Have faith. Develop a personal relationship? How can I? These buzz words and phrases I get tired of hearing. Tired of trying to achieve. I’m afraid I don’t measure up. I haven’t been praying as I usually do…does that offend you? Is my faith too weak and scattered? How can I be what you want if your standards are impossible to reach? I’m human. I don’t have the strength to handle what you’ve dealt me. It’s too much. My plate is full. It’s overflowing actually…it’s been dropped all over the floor and I’m crying over the mess of gunk I now have to clean up as well. I don’t know how to stand tall and reflect what you need me to because I feel like I am the epitome of darkness. My life is a mess. It wasn’t my plan. I tried to stop it but I failed. I tried to cover it but my blanket is too small. I’m trying to hide but exposure screams and beckons me like a fire does a moth but then it burns me up. Memories are flashing again and dreams are haunting and terrorizing me in my sleep. I don’t know what they mean. Why are they here again? What do I do? Where do I go from here? I have a million choices to make and I can’t hear your voice or know what you want me to do. I’m stuck. I’m lost. And I’m scared.