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 (which I’ve done, and I write about it) or 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, and I’m blogging for connection and support.

Backwards EMDR

forwards-backwards-g-teysenFormal EMDR goes like this:
You list off 10 traumatic incidents you want to deal with (if you have the complex sort that I do from steady, ongoing abuse or a war experience; if you’re in for a discrete event like a fire or a car accident or an assault, you just focus on the one memory), and then you take each one and tackle them one at a time. The therapist asks you a series of questions about the memory and any bad messages about yourself you received during it, and asks you how traumatic you find it, etc. You go through what happened and talk about it while you either hold two pulsers that buzz alternately sort of like dueling cell phone ringers (my method) or pulsers AND a headphone that alternates music in each ear, or flashing lights on either side of your head, or the therapist just moves a pencil back and forth in front of you an your eyes follow it or the therapist taps on your legs alternately. Some way of forcing both sides of your brain to engage.

It works:
I’ve done this for years with my therapist, and it’s yielding great results, especially with my parenting — which was the whole reason I went to therapy and EMDR in the first place.

However, I’ve had some problems lately with abandonment and trust issues due to a recent breakup, and I couldn’t really figure out what in my past may have happened that made me feel abandoned specifically.

My therapist believes that because I was SO great at dissociating when I was a kid that it’s hard for me to recognize the events that most traumatized me. Also, with an ACE score like mine, there are a lot of goddamned memories to process and it’s hard to prioritize.

So, to get better results, we went backwards:
I sat down and held the paddles, feeling rather foolish, and thought about my panic when my partner (who does not live with me has to go home and to work sometimes FFS) leaves me.

Asked the same formal questions she always asks about how upset I was on a scale of 1-10, the bad message about myself that I am learning during these times and how strong it is, etc. I was surprised to find myself saying: I am disgusting as the message.

That makes no sense, I told my therapist.

Trust your brain, she said. It knows what to do to heal.

So I talk about how I feel when she leaves, and how I feel disgusting.

Where do you feel it in your body? She always asks. Good. Go with that.

And then

BAM

My brain reached back through the cords that attach my memories together like a web and found a memory. It was about posing happily for a photo with my mother in a two piece bathing suit, my firm strong hard little three-year-old pot belly held proudly aloft. And my mother’s shaming angry reaction when she saw the photo, demanding to me that I ‘pull in my stomach’ (and she said stomach was like I was a revolting human being for having one) for photos and said ugh and acted like I should be ashamed of how I looked. So of course I was.

BAM

Another memory. Another photo. This time older, in a nightgown with crossed legs, unaware that anyone could see my privates and unaware that if they could this would be somehow shameful. My mother angrily grabbing me by the arm, pulling me behind the Christmas Tree at my grandparents’ house where we were visiting, her face full of fury and shame, demanding that I never pose like that again; demanding to know why I wasn’t wearing underwear, pointing an accusing finger at my tiny little vulva in the photo, tearing it up in front of my eyes.

I have no idea why body shame was wrapped up in saying goodbye to my partner and subconsciously fearing she would never come back. But it was. And there is no way in hell I could have made this connection consciously. And honestly when the list of memories include being molested, beaten with weapons, given a concussion, thrown across the room, punched in the stomach, and left for days; a mere shaming never came close to the top of that list.

I IMMEDIATELY started to feel better saying goodbye to my partner, and even was able to talk to her about how apparently body shame had to do with my anxiety about her leaving, and we had a great discussion and I think that helped me feel better when she leaves, too.

I felt stupid going backwards, and REALLY stupid for having such strong emotions about ordinary day-to-day interactions, but fuckif it hasn’t made a huge difference.

Backwards. Might be the way to go for a while, I think.

 

PROGRESS.

SmallVictoriesI am writing this all out of order — I want to write about the unusual method we’ve been using in my EMDR, but something momentous happened that showed me I am making tremendous progress.

(Before I tell my story, please don’t comment anything negative about my kid. He is autistic, has Tourette’s, is thirteen, just got on his bottom braces, was overtired, and his parents are going through a divorce.)

Anyway Wednesday night was, conflictwise, the perfect storm: my son was not doing his homework and instead was dicking around online (I have a HUGE emotional tweak with homework for reasons too boring to get into right now), and when time came to go to sleep, he announced that NOW he would begin a huge project that was due in two days.

No, you will not, I told him. We are all going to bed and you had hours to work on this.

“I’m sorry, mom,” he said in the snottiest (and tweaking-mom’s-rage-worthy manner) “but that’s just how things are going to be.” He turned arrogantly toward the computer.

I felt a wave of helplessness wash over me, but I took a deep breath and leapt into action.

I took his computer.

He launched himself at me.

“Do not assault me,” I said. “Do not do that.”

I stumbled, crutchless, down the hallway.

“You come back here, cunt!” He yelled.

I kept stumbling away from him and opened the front door.

He raced after me. “Bitch! Cunt! Fuck you!”

All of these words have been triggers for me in the past for violence.

I opened the door and staggered, still crutchless, down the stairs to my apartment building.

(And I am still SO GRATEFUL to my partner, who put a hand on my son’s chest to prevent him from following me, and dealt with his screaming and swearing as I was gone.)

I wrapped the computer in my hoodie and stumbled, limping, to my coparent’s house (did I mention that feeling helpless and crippled without my crutches or a wheelchair is also something that tweaks me into rage?).

I knocked on the door and handed him the computer. We talked briefly, and I headed back.

My son was calmer but still angry when I got home and kept trying to fight with me: “I hope you know that I will now be letting down my whole group by not doing my part and we will all get an F,” he said, and: “I’m not sorry for the things I said.”

Eventually, I got him and his brother in bed and I turned off the light and shut the door and started doing dishes, shaking with adrenaline and nausea and rage.

But something was missing.

My throat was not sore.

“Honey,” I asked my partner. “Did I really not yell during any of that?”

“Nope.”

And then I realized something: not only had I NOT hit this kid, I didn’t even have the DESIRE to hit him.

This is literally the first time in my life I have been furious and not had the urge to hit someone.

This EMDR is changing my neurology and basic, animal responses to stress.

IT IS WORKING, you guys. IT IS WORKING.

Wow. Such good. So better!

bettersomuchI feel a little guilty about this because my coparent is in an ocean of terror and misery and my partner is puking her guts out but you guys I am ridiculously cheerful and I am doing SO MUCH BETTER!!!

I worked 60 hours last week and loved it and I’m tired and happy and my house is messy but I don’t care.

I had two REALLY interesting EMDR sessions my therapist did in an unusual way that I want to dissect in later posts (in a nutshell: instead of picking a past memory around trust to start with, we picked a current one of panicking when my partner has to leave me to go home or to work, and let my mind leap back to earlier memories, and it was incredibly surprising where my mind took me and it actually helped enormously in just one or two sessions) but right now I am tired and I’m going to bed.

I just wanted you all to know that I think I found the right Lexapro dosage, I’m doing well in my work, and everyone around me is falling apart but today everywhere I went in the hallways of my contract job and the grocery store everyone was smiling back at me because I looked and felt so happy.

Or maybe I had something stuck in my teeth.😛

Weebles Wobble but they don’t fall down

webblewobbleHey you guys
The last two days — hell, maybe three — have been GOOD.
thank god for Lexapro and for being irrepressible no matter how hard I try not to be; I was born a Weeble Wobble*

I know there will be ups and downs still but I thought you all might want to know.

* explanation for the children: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Weeble

We Are What We Do

kindnessIt has occurred to me that I am completely unable to see myself the way my friends see me. I suppose everyone is like that to some extent. But the disconnect is truly astoundingly different.

My father always thought he was a bad person. Despite giving and giving and noticing when people were sad and being kind and loving and loving and literally working his hands until they bled for his family. He thought something deep inside of him was just BAD.

I think it was the catholic church and his abusive father who taught him this, and I imagine for me it was my abusive mom who taught ME this: that there is something fundamentally wrong and bad about me, no matter what I do or say.

Intellectually, I believe love is a verb and, all respect due to my new age friends, I think it is our deeds that define us and not our thoughts.

And yet I’m slipping into that thinking that my dad had about himself: if they only knew how pathetic and whiny I am between my ears, I think to myself. How lazy and cowardly I can be in my own brain. No one would think I was a good person.

And that is bullshit. Love is a verb. I am what I do. If you tell me I was there for you when you needed a friend, who am I to say “But I wasn’t there in the right way; it wasn’t good enough?”

Thank you all for speaking up and holding me up and telling me to stop being so hard on myself. I’m not sure if I can do what you ask, or how long it will take me to learn it, but I’m gonna try.