Tuesday, July 24, 2012

I'd Rather Have A Weekly Root Canal

Psychotherapy is like getting a weekly root canal.  It may be necessary, but it sure isn’t fun.

Recently a friend of mine said, “Leslie, you have a great family. When you are feeling bad, would it help to think about them?”
I said, “The last time you had a toothache,  I mean a ‘I have to see the dentist today!’ toothache, did it help to think about your family?” 

She understood my point and was not offended. (I told my therapist this story and he laughed really hard.  I don’t know why.)
I warned my friend that I was going to use that conversation in a blog post.  I like sharing some of the things she says because I think they reflect what many others may be thinking, but don’t say to me directly.

On that same day my friend said something like, “Well now that you have your memories back, it should start to get better, right?”
I wish that were the case.  I admit this is something that has been confusing to me too.  The idea of why healing takes so long, I mean.  It seems to me part of the reason is because we keep coming back to the same topics over and over.  That frustrates me and sometimes I will say to my therapist, “I know we have talked about this many times before, but-“  Obviously we are still talking about it because it is still bothering me.  You see, I want my healing to be linear, a straight path  up the mountain and then, “Yeah, I’m healed” and as a reward I get to ski down.  Or something like that.

Reality is a bit different.  My therapist says  that it is more like links in a chain.  You seem to go in circles for a while, but each circle is a link that connects to another link and slowly you inch forward.  The reason for the circles, rather than the linear path I would prefer, is the way the mind and body deal with trauma. 

I can only speak for myself (it may be different for some survivors and similar for others), but my memories do not come all at once.  They come in small bits and pieces like a puzzle that needs to be assembled.  I suppose that is a mercy, because even remembering this way is unbelievably painful.   So I receive a small piece, I cry, I work on it in therapy, and then usually I have a short “denial” mode wherein I take a little break.  If the break gets too long, I start to have migraine-like headaches, or other psychosomatic symptoms, until I start dealing with my issues again.

All of this would be clearer perhaps if I could give actual examples of the memory puzzle pieces, but I can’t because that would cross my line of what is too graphic.  Instead, I found a great quote to that illustrates my point.  It comes from the book, THE UNSAYABLE: the hidden language of trauma by Annie G. Rogers Ph.D. 
“Trauma is a letter written on the body in vanishing ink, a character of the alphabet that seems to stand alone as it emerges into view.  As one letter collects other letters, a message emerges that demands to be read, to be known. “

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Tea and A Tantrum

Hello!  Thanks for coming.  Please come in.  Have a seat.  Would you like some tea?  And perhaps a tantrum?  Please take as much as you like there is plenty more where that came from. 

photo attribution: aromateashop.com

Don't you love it when something you've been working on suddenly comes together?  You know, a EUREKA, I've got it moment.  I had one of those today in therapy.  I think it would be boring (even in the skilled hands of a writer such as myself...snicker) to explain the blow by blow conversation.  It's a conversation we have had in various mutations on many occasions.  So I'll give you the conclusion (tea) and what comes next (tantrum).

I have felt for a while now that I have become very introverted, meaning in my definition: prefering to be alone rather than with people and keeping my thoughts to myself.  I used to be very extroverted.  I loved people.  I loved being with people.  And I loved sharing my thoughts and ideas with people.

While I miss being an extrovert, this new hermit life of being introverted is all I can handle right now.  I didn't know why until today.  The reason....drum roll....is because I am so angry.  I know I told you I was over that but I was lying to myself.  I don't go around kicking my dog (though the thought does cross my mind at times) or yelling (I'm not a yeller).  Still I have this fire simmering all the time, and when there is a trigger then I get a "flash fire" that burns me up inside.

As I have mentioned in previous posts, anger is a difficult emotion for me to understand, to acknowledge, and to overcome.  Remember it's like the Dragon in the Cellar, breathing fire, nearly burning down the house, and yet, how do I get it out of there?

Today I told my therapist that I can't blog anymore (something I previously enjoyed) because I am too angry and I am afraid that it will come out in my posts. 

"And so?"  he asked.

I couldn't believe that he couldn't see how catastrophically terrible that would be.  People might be shocked.  They might turn away.  Worst of all they might feel disappointed in me. . .

He suggested that I ask YOU if you ever feel anger and how do you deal with it.  So I'm making the request.  Please leave me a comment here, on FB, or send me an e-mail at lesliesillusions @ gmail.  (you know the rest).  Do you get angry?  How do you deal with it?

I have known that I felt angry for awhile.  What I didn't realize until my therapist pointed it out is that I don't want to let go of that anger yet.  I thought about that and it really resonated with me.  I said, "You are right.  Dammit, I have a right to be angry."  As I said it, I instinctively clenched my fists.
My therapist smiled, "Good.  I like that."

I couldn't believe this either.  I was expressing anger and he was pleased. 

With a bit more pondering, I realized that a big part of the reason I fear anger so much is because of the way I experienced it as a child from an abuser.  BUT suddenly it occured to me that "normal people" express anger all the time.  They rant about politics, or traffic, or whatever they feel like ranting about.

EUREKA...that is when it all came together.  Instead of witholding my anger from you, my readers, in fear that you will shy away...I'm going to express it.  Share it.  Vent it.  Own it. 

Dammit I have a right to be angry.

Man that feels good.

I hope my anger won't "scare" you away, but it's a chance I have to take.  I'm going to free that dragon from the cellar once and for all.  I hope you will stay by me for Tea and Tantrums.  (Although I will understand if you don't...)