Trigger Warning & Discussion Guidelines

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kitten 1I am devoted to this blog being about healing, not abuse porn. That said, sometimes to talk about healing I will have to talk about hurting. Please consider this sticky post a trigger warning for every entry for childhood abuse of all kinds. If you are having a difficult day, this blog will still be here tomorrow! Consider looking at this picture of a kitten, instead, for now. Be kind and compassionate to yourself.

Also, be kind and compassionate to ME. If you want to stroll by and attack me when I fuck up or for because you don’t like queers or what-have-you, or if you want to fight about the psychiatric profession or EMDR or anything else, please know that I screen all comments and I just won’t let them through. This place is not a debate page. It’s a personal blog.

Cocooning

swaddled-baby-boy-sleepingSo my shrink thinks that I have triggered some pre-verbal trauma, which is awesome. She has heard of some ways to access this sort of thing but is not certified and doesn’t want to use me as guinea pig, which seems legit.

Also I am sick AGAIN.

So I’m spending a lot of time canceling plans and curling up in a blanket and staring into space. Watching The Good Wife, which seems like an odd thing for an infant to do but I guess I’m an odd infant. Snuggling whomever will sit still enough to allow me to snuggle them.

Trying to do non-verbal and non-processing things like dressing up for work every day in over-the-top dandified outfits.

Not sure what else to do. No words, see!

Housekeeping

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Hey, folks!
I’ve been getting some personal attacks and general hostility toward the psychiatric profession and EMDR in comments lately. Through some misguided sense of ‘transparency,’ I’ve been letting them through and arguing with people.

But this blog is for sharing a common bond and connecting with others struggling with similar issues, and for sharing my experience with EMDR. I’m neither interested in nor willing to defend myself or EMDR here and it’s getting in the way of the work I need to be doing.

If you’re looking for a fight, look elsewhere! I just realized that this blog has a very specific purpose and public debate is not it. If I think your comment is not productive, I’m just not letting it through.
Thanks,
Moxie

Trauma and the developing brain

So, this week my therapist sat me down for an education on how PTSD affects the brain.

I thought she’d do a more professional version of what I did for the kids: amygdala. hippocampus. Prefrontal lobe.

When I look at those brain scans, showing all the damage that my mother and the world did– when I look at adult brain scans, it’s clinical. This is what I need to work on. This is what needs fixing.

86059.imgBut she instead went through it talking about how babies develop. How whatever happened affected my brain development.

I can barely stand to write these words.

The thought of myself as a helpless baby in my mother’s arms fills me with unspeakable dread. I am, right now, fighting back a gagging reflex and chills of nausea thinking about the fact that she nursed me. My heart is pounding. I am shaking.

I’ve seen my mother with babies. She does not . . . she is not attuned to them. She jiggles them awkwardly and holds them away from her face and she’s just absolutely unable to engage with them at all. She bellows cheerfully way too loudly in their faces and doesn’t notice them flinching. She scolds them in a sort of joking tone and calls them ‘naughty.’

That’s when, my therapist explained, the damage starts. And then when you reach the next stage of development, you are already behind, and abuse and neglect makes you unable to create the correct connections at that stage, either. And so on.

Do I need to do this another time? She asked as she saw my eyes fill with tears.

No, I said.

When is it a good time to hear that from the very beginning, right out of the gate, I was already being damaged? That after the initial damage, when I was already fucked up, there was more damage, layered on top of more, slathered with more? That even if I’d been plucked out of there, my development would be fucked up because I had already been damaged before — but I WASN’T plucked out of there, so the damage was just exponential? There was not going to be another, better, time to hear that.

So my shrink, showing me the sections in the book and a video, continued: When a baby does not have her needs met, she does one of two things, depending on how the parent reacts or doesn’t react: she gets louder and more demanding, or she gives up.

All of this before we even figure out how to properly focus our goddamned eyes.

My mother was a teacher. She went back to school the Monday after she gave birth to me, the Monday after she gave birth to two of my other sisters. I was born at the end of the summer; the other two, in autumn.

The one whom I fear has Borderline Personality Disorder? She was born in June. She probably had my mother as a primary caretaker for her first three months as my father was running after a toddler and my mom was right fucking there.

oh god I can’t do this. I’ll try again later.

*

Why can’t you talk about this? My partner asked me.

I can talk about ANYTHING. My problem is usually talking too much.

But when I tried to tell her about this session, and what I learned, I would shut down. Clamp my jaw shut. My throat would close over it, my body still.

Is it because hearing that this damage is on top of damage on top of damage? She asked. Does it seem like there’s just too much work to do?

I shook my head but kept my mouth clamped shut.

I am trapped in my mind, I thought frantically. I can’t get out.

And I had no idea why I was unable to talk about it or write about it. I felt like a person in a fantasy novel who has had a spell put on her not to talk about a certain topic. Nothing comes out. You are choking on what you want to say.

And I think what fills me with visceral horror– what causes me to shake and my heart to pound when I think about this — is that she got so far in.

Die Gedanken Sind Frei” has been running through my head over and over these past few days. I thought it was in response to some things going on in the world that were upsetting (if you didn’t click the link, it’s a very old German protest/freedom song about thoughts being free no matter how much someone is locked up and tortured), but then I realized what it was: before that session with the shrink, I believed my thoughts were free. I believed that my brain — the seat of where I see myself, as opposed to my heart or my womb or wherever other people conceived of their selves dwelling — was damaged, but somehow untouched.

Yeah, yeah it makes no sense. I’m in therapy, see. ‘Cause I make no sense.

But I thought somehow that the essential kernel of who I was was MINE. She couldn’t get to that part.

But she did. And that thought is even more horrifying than the thought that I was a fragile baby in her hurtful arms. That I nursed from the breast of the woman who was later so sexually creepy.

No. It’s that she could pry open my skull and pour her poison in, even deep in there where I keep my REALness. And that it festered and corroded and destroyed my cells and my neurons. The very structure of my essence.

That is what is, right now, unspeakable to me.

Also from last night

. . . I forgot to mention that after my science presentation last night  I asked the boys what they would like me to do beyond what I was already doing.

jt-fights-pap“Leave when we tell you to,” the youngest said, which I already do.

“Don’t get all up in my face when we’re upset,” said the eldest, which was quite illuminating. I didn’t realize I did that. So I will work very hard on staying back physically.

What I’ve done so far

Tonight, both boys said they had some time for me. Ten minutes, tops. Heh.

I showed them a diagram of the human brain and pointed to the frontal cortex, the amygdala, the hippocampus, and the hypothalamus. The eldest corrected my pronunciation of amygdala.

PTSDbrain

PTSD shuts down this part of your brain when you are in stress, I explained, pointing to the frontal cortex. This is the part that helps you control your emotions and actions. These tiny parts, the amygdala and hypothalamus, reign supreme.

“So you can’t control yourself,” the eldest said.

“No,” I said. “It’s HARDER for me to control myself. PTSD is not what made me hit you. I made me hit you. PTSD made it harder for me to control the urge, but a parent needs to control it.”

Then I showed them images of brain scans of a person with PTSD, with overactive parts of their brain, contrasting with images of a brain after one EMDR session (the brain is much calmed) and then after multiple sessions. (Even calmer yet.)

The youngest squirmed. “Is this over yet?”

“Almost,” I said. “Don’t you want to know what I’m doing to help learn control and speak calmly and never hit?”

“Not really,” he said. A video of cute animals was calling to him, paused in mid-adorability on his phone.

I sighed. “Okay!” I said.

The eldest sat still long enough for me to give him a basic description of Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), which is what my therapist has suggested doing in addition to EMDR, and then he said: “Okay! I get it! Can we watch The Flash now?”

So we did.

Next up: implementation. DBT is very detailed, specific, and involved. I will show them my workbooks and notes and stuff, if they want to. But I have a feeling that they just want to watch TV and avoid their homework and eat sugar when I’m not looking. Like kids who aren’t afraid of their parents and don’t spend a lot of time thinking about this stuff.

I hope against hope that they will have as peaceful of childhoods as possible– if I keep working this, maybe they’ll grow up like a lot of people I know whose parents flipped out and hit them a few times, and yelled too much at times, but didn’t break them. We’ll see.

Today my heart is broken.

988937_10152547143191512_3370595637797222915_nAnd I am so ashamed.

Because yesterday, my partner finally got me to understand that the way I often speak to my children when I am anxious or freaked out or angry is NOT okay.

And that same day, unbidden, one of my sons told me that I was scarier than Daddy because I didn’t get angry as often as he did– but when I did, it was TERRIFYING. I was like his stepbrother’s cat — the one who seems fine for hours and then suddenly turns and bites you.

And I hung my head and went in to therapy and said that I was confident my days of hitting my children were over but that I needed to work on my angry and harsh tone, and she said she was going to bring in some information on how traumatized people think (or, more properly, DON’T think) in times of stress, to explain why I do what I do. She started to talk about the lizard brain and the fight, flight, or freeze response.

I know why I do it, I explained to her patiently, my fists clenched, but I CAN’T DO IT ANYMORE.

I began to panic when she patiently explained that she felt like I understood how PTSD has affected me in my head but not in my gut. And she said she wanted me to read up on orphaned children or children who have been in foster care for years with attachment issues because that was the level of abuse she thought my mother had subjected me to.

And I said: I get it I get it we just need it to STOP, and she smiled understandingly and said we’ll start by understanding what’s happening in your brain when you are frightened next week and I said well at least I won’t ever hit one of them again and then

I WENT HOME AND SLAPPED MY ELDEST ACROSS HIS FACE.

He said fuck you and called me a bitch, which means I slapped him out of ANGER. Not FEAR. Fucking anger.

And then he ran to the one room in the downstairs with a lock and I kicked it in with one blow and then I stood as still as I could and he ran around me and said get away from me mom I do not trust you and so I left the house for a couple of hours after saying I was terribly sorry.

And I carefully drank no alcohol and talked to a friend and came home and apologized and he was like, oh, no big we’ll talk about it later because I’m working on this project and now I have to work very very hard at keeping the focus on being a better parent instead of wallowing in my self loathing but it is very very very very hard.

I’ve been telling people that EMDR is worth it because I never hit my kids again after I started it. Now I don’t know what to say.

Also

closetI just did something ridiculously brave, which I won’t describe in detail but it was coming out in a quite public way and that’s all I’ll say so that I can keep this blog anonymous.

But trust me it was brave like woah.

I am proud of myself and also scared but mainly proud.