Like Words Together Reflections from the deep end of Practice.

27Mar/200

Global Trauma

Today I saw someone sharing a reminder online that this pandemic is exciting everyone’s stress response system, our friend the Sympathetic Nervous System. There isn’t anyone to fight, although racism is certainly trying to make it true. We cannot flee a virus.

Collapse, or “Freeze”, is the third stage of this system. Play opossum until the threat gets bored and moves on. This is why we’re exhausted.

The author noted that folks with Complex Trauma are worse off. We already have to convince ourselves we’re OK, but now it really isn’t safe.

Hence my nearly daily naps. I’m trying not to resent them. They keep me able to stay well and keep us well, keep me from collapsing under a blanket in years. Naps after facing the pharmacy and being at Freddie’s age also just fine!

18Mar/200

Celebrating & Mourning Resilience

This whole pandemic thing is making my anxiety unhappy. I’m really grateful for dogs, they bring joy to us every day. It wasn’t an easy day and I was extra happy to hang out in the sunshine in our yard with them this afternoon.

I've worked so hard the past several years to get my nervous system out of the state were I can'tsleep because I'm sure it isn't safe. My hypervigilance is flared up, telling me that it has been right all this time, the world isn’t safe!

I went to therapy in person. SAFE/EMDR cannot be done remotely. It really isn't safe. While therapists ate being encouraged to use an online tool, they are allowed to make exceptions for folks who have “complex cases”.

Like mine. Yay, I’m Complex. I get to keep working on my trauma history that drowns me in shame, especially where it interacts with money. I’m really relieved I have this option even if it is a mixed bag.

I’m so angry. I’ve spent the past five years reinventing and healing myself after tech burnout/Mom breakdown. I was just getting going and now I’m stopped. I got our yoga room more organized today so I can start doing online classes. More reinventing. It isn’t wasted, but it is exhausting and sad.

My therapist was thrilled to hear that I had already asked CK to help me out with my sudden loss of job. I’m already aware how much teaching helps me manage my mental health.

We worked a little on the current memory. It revealed some details that left me celebrating how resilient I was, and am. How I found my own ways to soothe myself, I had to since my Mother was unable to set an example of this. I began finding creative ways to isolate and soothe from my terrifying family at such a young age.

I was such a bad ass, compassionate, peaceful little kid.

I’m integrating the rage I feel because I had to become that kid. I love her and I’m amazed at her, again and again. Between my family and the 70s/80s, no one was looking out for her.

14Mar/200

Withdrawing

The first day of not really going anywhere. We’re discussing a plan for monitoring for any sign of fever. Noting holes in my long stock up of long-storing food items.

I woke up early, needing to pee, and was surprised at the brightness of the room in the predawn. Then I noticed the snow.

I returned to my warm bed, in a house with a furnace programmed to come on when we rise and well stocked with food and medicines, and thought about the houseless women who sit just inside the community center I teach at. They keep not-quite warm, dry, and safe. There are toilets.

Yesterday the centers and libraries all closed. Warming shelters closed for the spring. Where did people go?

My Mother and I were briefly houseless when I was four after she was fired from her job. She blamed me for it. We went to live with my aunt and her two kids. My Mother also was in a car accident during this time which extended our time there.

It was a terrifying time in which I learned that no one in my family was on my side. None of the adults, therefore neither of my cousins by extension. I gained tremendous shame around money, a terror of being without a home, and a fear of “rocking the boat”.

This experience is one I’m currently integrating in therapy. I’m wondering if I’ll be going to my session on Tuesday. I don’t want to take a break, I want to keep taking care of it and getting past the way it undermines everything I think about money.

I’d meant to text more people and connect over teleconferencing with friends. Instead I tried not to fret too much, nor read a lot of news.

10Mar/200

Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria

I’ve been mildly anxious all day. No good reason, but sometimes it is like that. Residual energy waves following my Mother’s birthday last week. Ups of anxiety and lows of depression.

Mild, day-long anxiety is tedious, tiring, and taxes executive function. This means when I finally muster the energy to tackle unappealing chores, I go a bit heads down. Which means communication breakdowns.

When all that happens I pretty much feel like a failure. I can’t just “get over it”. That’s the Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria, the inability to see something as a blip and instead agonize over it. Over and over and over it.

All that happens and then I feel down. Depression bites at my heels. It’s a lousy cycle and just exhausting.

The new meds are helping, but I’m looking forward to increasing the dose later this month. It is helping, but it feels like it isn’t quite there yet.

6Mar/200

It’s the Trauma

My first foray into therapy was with a Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) provider who gave me my initial PTSD diagnosis. She had a lot of biases and a difficult time keeping them out of her sessions; our relationship ended traumatically because of this. She retired a few years ago and I’m honestly relieved she’s no longer practicing.

After a while I got stuck. CK ultimately steered me to someone who specialized in trauma therapy and used EMDR. The new therapist helped me start to understand what Complex Trauma is and why early childhood trauma needs different healing methods; CBT doesn’t help. We thankfully had a good relationship in place when I needed to end things with the CBT therapist.

I was in the midst of my yoga therapy training and internship when my trauma therapist retired. I was having weekly mentoring sessions with an Integrated Movement Therapist so I put off finding a replacement until I was through my program.

Since I’ve been able to embrace the label “Artist” for myself, I got a referral to an Art Therapist a friend sees. I really respect art therapy; I was working through some very painful stuff and using art let me access my memories and emotions in new ways.

When my anxiety was destabilizing life last year, a return to trauma therapy was presented. My therapist not only works in art therapy, but she offers Somatic Attachment-Focused EMDR (SAFE) for folks with trauma history. This approach helps people integrate events more completely.

While I have some understanding of the neuroscience of trauma, how brain development is affected, my therapist shows me how this plays out in my own brain. I’m appreciating how recognizing myself as mildly nuerodivergent explains many of the times I feel like a “broken robot” when trying to connect with other people.

While this is all great, the hardest part is continuing to unpack just how terrible my childhood was. Realizing where I’m still clinging to fantasies that my Mother wasn’t so bad, that I didn’t feel utterly alone even in, perhaps especially in, the middle of family gatherings.

Accepting that trauma changed my brain in ways that seem to leave me with Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria means that my doctor and I are exploring a medication that stems to be lowering my anxiety. This is great!

The flip side: I’m integrating the fact that my childhood trauma was profound, that I was the only child of a deeply disturbed Mother who was incapable of self-soothing. I don’t recall more physical abuse from when I was older because she didn’t need to rely on it. She so throughly physically terrified me from ages 18 months to 8 years that she only had to reference it to get me to behave.

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5Mar/200

Mom’s 77th

‪Today is my Mother‘s birthday. She would have been 77. ‬

I consider all my students, including the new one who came this week, aged 99, and think, that’s so young!

‪When I tell people why my energy is low, they feel like they get this heaviness, they know how to respond. Oh, that sucks… imsorryforyourloss… mumble.‬..

‪When your abusive parent dies your grief is complicated.

If you’re currently doing trauma therapy to heal said abuse? You get complications galore in your grief.‬

I’m sorry for my loss. Losses, there’s so many when you have a parent with a disordered personality. Loss of safety, loss of parental support, loss of identity, loss of confidence, and loss of stability. To name merely a few.

I’m proud of how much I accomplished without any direction aside from the urging of my heart to run in the opposite direction of the example my Mother set. I finally had to admit I couldn’t save my Mother and saved myself instead.

In contest to my complicated grief today, I was showered with love at the bakery after driving across town to our favorite place. I was told how I’m “always a shining light” and offered a hug. At work the director told my new manager that my work, which doesn’t make the community center a lot of money, provides an important service.

4Mar/200

The Lies We Tell Ourselves

⚠️ Content Warnings ⚠️
⚠️ Domestic Violence, Rape, Child Abuse ⚠️

Talking about my trauma therapy today, early childhood and conception. I’ll repeat the warning block right before it comes in to the post.

In December 2018 I went to Mexico, using money I’d raised through donations, and trained in offering Bedside Yoga for end of life care. The whole combination, succeeding at raising money and the training left me feeling unsettled.

As 2019 went on, I began feeling like I was increasingly off balance. My therapist suggested we move away from Art Therapy into SAFE to address the root traumas. We spent a couple of weeks identifying an underlying false belief I have about myself. Then we went back in time from present day to the earliest memories I have that connect to this false belief.

With all that in place, we start at the beginning, reprocessing each memory in turn until it loses the charge, then we “install” the memory into our history. It’s has slay been an illuminating process. We’re only on the third memory.

I say it’s a false personal belief, yet at the same time this belief feels so true. Despite the illogic of it, part of me is certain that I’m ultimately toxic. People shouldn’t ever get too close, if they do I’ll eventually harm them because I’m dangerous.

Right. That definitely makes it hard to connect with people.

The process of going back gives space for people who want to address birth trauma. For me I asked that we start by processing my conception story. I know it because my Mother weaponized the information against me when I was 16; a memory recorded to integrate later.

⚠️ Content Warnings ⚠️
⚠️ Domestic Violence, Rape, Child Abuse ⚠️

My conception is the result of a night of alcohol fueled domestic violence. In 1969 it wasn’t illegal for a husband to rape his wife.

My Mother has experienced multiple miscarriages, a stillborn son, and had a girl who was born with significant birth defects who died at 18 months of age. She told me endless stories about her singing & reading to me when I was in her womb.

She would call me her “miracle”. She wild often remind me that she made me, I was hers.

My therapist helps me understand that my Mother has a personality disorder. That her mental illness was the direct result of my Grandmother’s abusive parenting. Having experienced abuse from my Grandmother, I know she was terrible.

Knowing all this, combined with memories I already had of physical abuse, I feel like I shouldn’t be surprised at new memories of physical abuse showing up. And yet, memories of yet more abuse have upset me, I realize I was still trying to minimize.

I want to believe that I became a difficult child that caused the rages I do remember. Instead I must integrate that she was physically, energetically, and emotionally terrifying to me. By age 4 I knew that no one in my family would ever help me.

My childhood wasn’t that bad...

“Why?”, asks my therapist, “Because she never gave you a black eye?!”

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3Mar/200

Becoming Light

I’m grateful for therapy. I may often feel angry at what has put me in a comfy seat, but I’m so grateful to have this kind person helping me integrate painful truths.

I have so often felt broken by the experiences I’ve survived. This new round in trauma therapy is helping me feel like I’m really uncovering the hidden weights holding me back.

Despite the ugliness, the hair-crackling rage I’m feeling on the process,  “I feel myself turning into something of inexplicable value.”, to quote Mary Oliver.

2Mar/200

Conundrum

Trauma doesn’t make sense and yet I can’t stop my thinking brain from trying to understand. I’m getting better at realizing when I’m spinning my wheels in the deep mud of a trauma memory and I need to stop trying to make sense of it. I’m getting better at reminding myself that my Mother has a personality disorder, there is no sense to be found.

My grandmother was terrible to me and that was while she noticeably more loving towards me than my Mother. When I recall this, I’m reminded that my Mother’s mental illness was a direct result of the abuse she received as the unwanted, second child. My mental health is the direct result of intergenerational trauma, and it stops here.

The past doesn’t have to make sense and I’m learning to be OK with that.

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1Mar/200

Return

I’ve been away healing, growing, but have been considering that some writing best belongs here, but on social media alone.

Thursday would have been my Mother’s 77th birthday. I’m remembering how we were getting ready to take her to Hawaii for her 70th. Social media tells me I was ordering our cab to the airport about this time 7 years ago.

Yesterday I reminded my wife, “The forecast said there’s a high chance of Mom-Mopes.”

These post-death birthdays get easier, but I’m in the midst of processing a trauma memory that’s opened my eyes to the physical abuse she visited upon me as a very small child. I’m integrating how terrifying she was and how I have been shaped by this.

Glad I have therapy on Tuesday, it feels right to keep working through the memory. I'm prepared with my self care plan for the rest of the week. Physical Therapy on Wednesday. Donuts with a friend on Thursday itself. Time in a floatation tank Friday. Making art with friends on Saturday.

I’m also enjoying watching my orchid from grocery outlet store, never have seen the flowers, bloom!