Like Words Together Reflections from the deep end of Practice.

3Apr/200

Gifts Gratefully Received

Standing beneath trees
Abundant with bright blossoms;
Hopeful, tender Life.

I went out today and saw a dear student, physically distant as I admired her garden. She made CK and I each two cotton masks, beautiful creations that will allow us to more safely do necessary errands.

I’ve felt increasingly anxious about my rare trips out. A student asked if we wanted some and I took her up on the offer, gratefully, and shared with her hoe it was helping my anxiety! Ironically, as I was on this errand the CDC issued a statement recommending masks!

I feel loved. I am taking it in, trying to really pay attention. This gift, the sweetener of including CK, the money I’ve been making, the generosity. It is this reminder that I am valued, worthy. I’m not a toxic person who destroys people.

1Apr/200

Poetry and Gratitude

Hey, it's April, which happens to be National Poetry Month, and I'm trying to think of creative projects. Reviving the old 30 Poems in 30 Days challenge!

April Haiku

Raindrops fill flowers.
Delicate cups overflow.
April showers fall.

I'm grateful for these fancy primroses CK grew from seed. I'm grateful for her exuberant return to gardening. I'm grateful her job is secure and she likes it.

I often have moments where I'm grateful that my Mother is dead. This ghoul of a President at least wasn’t elected by her, because she would have voted for his “straight talking” ways. She would have been the Boomer playing down the seriousness of COVID and telling me I’m overreacting, being a drama queen.

Her death freed me to heal, to finally see the full scope of the abuse, to really connect to the terrified child I was. Connecting to that child self is helping me to see how remarkable I was.

How remarkable I am.

31Mar/200

Self Taught

Trauma Therapy Tuesday; it was productive and sad. Strange seeing all the shops closed, especially as I’d been processing how utterly alone I felt at age 4. Deeply melancholy.

In a family with intergenerational trauma, everyone had poor, to dangerous, soothing skills. I somehow, at 4, figured out how to soothe myself. I figured how to keep myself safe in a family that didn’t value me.

I’m appreciating what an amazing child I was. I was a badass.

I’m also sure that I would have learned to be the person I am without being terrorized. I’m both really proud and amazed by my child self while also being deeply angry that I needed to be a self-taught badass.

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.

9Mar/200

The Gift of Comfort

I’m wearing a hoodie my wife gave me. She’s given me several over the years. When I’m feeling low one of her hoodies or one that she’s given me will help me feel comforted.

I was thinking the other day of my ex-husband, AP, who once took me on a shopping trip where he bought me a strapless party dress to wear out to an event he was taking me to. We had a polyamorous marriage and over the years I watched him repeat this act with other women. I recently saw a social media post that referenced that this is still something he does.

It was not a comfortable dress. It required a special bra and I was often worried about a “wardrobe malfunction”. I felt, as I was meant to, all dolled up. I made a great accessory, I was pleasant to look at and could decent conversation.

This felt so familiar. My Mother regularly dictated my clothing choices to me, either through manipulation or the financial control parents exert over children. When I’d display my own flair, she would copy me.

She had almost no boundaries and raised me to be afraid of establishing any with her.

I was folding hoodies on Sunday, putting away the laundry, and thinking of all the gifts she’s given me over the years. There’s been purely ornamental, decorative items, artwork, beautiful scarves, and jewelry. Many really clever, helpful, thoughtful tools and toys. Art supplies, even adding out to her wedding vows to keep me stocked! Many comforting, comfortable things, like hoodies.

Gifts of comfort, gifts to bolster me on hard days*, gifts to build up my creative side. The gift of supporting my non-lucrative second career. Gifts that demonstrate how much attention she gives my happiness.

Not gifts to turn me into a suitable ornament.

*The image is the gift she gave me this past Tuesday, after a tough session of trauma therapy. These are sleeves for our Magic cards, I like arty ones. This “Easter Dragon” is adorable!

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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