Peeling back another layer

I’ve become more reticent to post anything here lately. Many things have contributed to this; but the most important has been my relative destabilisation.  The past four months have been filled with anxiety, dysfunctional coping and fluctuating functioning. One of the causes for this has been  facing memories which are challenging the way I view myself, and the environment I was raised in.  This means that many of my fundamental beliefs are being called into question.

I say “facing memories”, because they have always been there, but up until now I haven’t been ready to look at them.  I still don’t know if I am, but this Easter has meant that they’ve arrived like a freight train, regardless of my state of preparation.  I’m not sure how you prepare for flashbacks anyway…  how do you prepare for emotions which sweep you up and take you on a ride through hell, complete with screams and fire?

In some ways, it could be argued that I began preparing for these memories over five years ago, when I first admitted to a therapist that I was abused in a kindergarten playground by some local teenagers.  Kerro talks about peeling back the layers of abuse, and this was my first layer.  It was the furtherest from my emotional reactions, so could be told with little affect… it was also the event most quickly relegated to the back of my mind, like headlines in an old newspaper.

Each layer of abuse has posed unique challenges, but this latest layer is causing all sorts of turmoil.  It feels as if disturbing this layer is going to change the shape and texture of my life.  There is a great deal of fear about this, and many warning signs that the system would like these layers to be left alone.  But then these two images keep appearing in flashbacks… they’re not dramatic; in fact, they’re actually rather ordinary… as long as I keep the flashback looking straight ahead… that’s the key, keeping a very tight focus on a point straight ahead.  If I look anywhere else, it feels as if the Earth will tilt… and we don’t want that, do we?

Over the past couple of months, I’ve been what can only be described as throwing Allison distractions. Yes, there has been healing work done, but it’s all been dancing around these two related images… testing Allison to see if she will cope, and whether we can trust her reaction to the events.  In some ways, I’m still not sure, as some of her reactions seem a little OTT… although, I have a feeling that her reactions are a more authentic reaction to the events; they just happen to clash with my dismissive attitude towards them.  I sit there rather bemused, while Allison is telling me how awful it is that those people used me in those ways.

So, back to the images… As I’ve begun to realise the significance of their connection, there has been an all out rebellion inside my head.  This has meant that I’ve approached them, and then backed away, several times over the months. This dance with the images is probably my way of desensitising myself to their impact… to allow myself the slower realisation of the implications.  I’m not sure if I like this approach, as it sort of feels like a slow torture… why not just do the equivalent of ripping the band aid off, and throw the door wide open?

I recently read a post by Jenny (from artconstellation) about how her stay in-patient helped her realise that she needs to repeat really painful ideas over and over in order for them to sink in and be addressed. I think this is why Allison is regularly asking me to slow down… I’m used to the band aid approach; whereas healing occurs when you allow the emotional connections to happen, and that takes more than one quick telling as you rush through a session.  It takes time, grieving, validation and acceptance… things which I don’t traditionally have much patience for.  I’m used to approaching a problem at work from different perspectives, but not my healing.

I think this is the reason for my slow dance around these images.  Trying to allow the system the chance to accept that these are the memories and emotions that need to be addressed. As the realisation has sunk in that there is a connection between the images, there is huge amounts of fear, confusion and anger.  These seem to feed into each other to create a whirlpool of emotions which I can’t label or even begin to comprehend.  As I glimpse at these emotions, there is that ever present fear that they will take over my whole being.  They seem so much bigger than anything I’ve ever had to face before.

The thing is, I’ve been in this place before.  I’ve worked through emotions which have felt so immense, that I didn’t know if it was possible to even begin to go near them… yet I did.  Sometimes my coping was dysfunctional, but I always found a way through.  So why can’t I believe in my own abilities?  The message always seems to come back to not trusting myself.  There is that lingering doubt that I’m still paying lip service to healing, and wanting to rip another band aid off… these images, and the parts who hold the associated emotions, are worthy of more respect and care than the band aid approach…  I need to remember that.

Now playing: Bush – Glycerine
via FoxyTunes


22 thoughts on “Peeling back another layer

  1. Hi CG, firstly, I’m so sorry that things are so rough for you right now. ((hugs))

    But, I’m really pleased that you’re taking things slowly and facing only what you can face, even if the rest of the memories and flashbacks seem to be threatening to mow you down. I remember my therapist saying I’d confronted too much too quickly and that really destabilised me for quite a while. Slow and steady wins the race as some old writer dude once said.

    What I see in this post is a sign of real healing, even if it doesn’t feel like it. Well done, GF. 🙂

    • Hi Kerro,

      I wish I was being that organised, but I’m not. The last weekend I’ve been a dysfunctional mess.

      I don’t think many therapists advocate for the band aid ripping approach. I’m glad you’re through to the other side of the telling, and are making your way forward.

      Take care,

      • May be it doesn’t feel organised, but is in a way? It might not be your usual level of “organised” but perhaps the system has a way of creating order? I don’t know, just a thought.

        • Hi Kerro,

          When I was talking about the disorganisation, I was considering how dysfunctional my weekend and thinking has been… It feels very much as if I’ve been cut lose from an anchor.

          I hope you’re right, and there is organisation happening under the surface.

          Take care,

  2. First, before I write this novel as a comment, I am SO happy to see you again CG! Your Polyvore sets have been very telling lately and I’m glad you decided to write.

    I think that you’re handling this perfectly. I mean we’re talking about abuse so, no way is going feel “good” but handling it slowly sounds healthier for you. It seems to me that your mind is trying to help all of you to be more able to handle things. Little things here and there and yes, you can feel that it’s about way more than that, but you’re not required to get into that all at once.

    That happened for me too. Little things that my brain and other parts went “No way! We don’t like where this is going!” but it was little flashes of nothing scary in of itself.

    I think this is a good thing as far as memory goes. No this is not going to be pleasant, it’s abuse it can’t be. But look at how a part of your mind is taking care of you by only revealing a little at a time. Is it possible that a rush will come? Yep. But this is where you’re at now.

    You’re more prepared to deal with this than you would have been before. And I think you totally hit what’s happening with Allison. I’ve noticed we all have a tendency to dismiss what happened, while our therapist are like “Oh my god!” I know when my therapist does that, part of me sits there looking at her and analyzing why she’s being so dramatic, when really it’s me who’s not reacting the way I should. Defensive mechanism 101.

    The way I see it, you’re in a different place than when you started. Do we always cope perfectly? No way. But you have resources outside and within that you didn’t always have.

    You yourself said that you’ve been here before and you got through it. I’ve noticed in your Polyvore sets that you’ve been giving attention to other parts in such kind ways. Maybe every time we have to go through something like this we feel like it’s so big. It is big but you’ve changed too. I think your post shows a lot of insight, you know what’s going on with you and that’s great.

    • Hi tai,

      Sorry, I wasn’t really aware of the Polyvore sets… I just knew that I was in a bad place and that there were attempts to get help.

      I’m trying to take this slowly, but there were more diversionary tactics during yesterdays sessions which ended up being really distressing. It’s become that the diversions are more upsetting than the two images. Not quite sure what I’m going to do about that.

      I think that sometimes therapists over-react slightly in order to show us that our reactions are not consistent with what we’re saying. I don’t know, it just feels a little forced from Allison, but I’m not sure how much of that is my detachment from the whole telling.

      Thanks for the vote of confidence, and the support… I appreciate it.

      Take care,

  3. This line here jumped right out and grabbed me.
    “There is a great deal of fear about this, and many warning signs that the system would like these layers to be left alone. ”

    I sometimes fear taking risks with my healing because of this tight rope walk I’m doing. I’m walking on a thin line of sanity and I don’t want to fall off, if I disturb my balance much will I lose what I’ve fought so hard to get or will I gain something I’ll later fight to keep? Is it all worth it?

    This entry makes me think about how hard it is to heal and how desperate I am to cling to what sanity I have left.

    • It’s ironic how our perceptions of ourselves differs so much to how others see us. You know I read your blog, and I see you working hard and with courage. So I see you as taking calculated risks. You do many things which take strength and a solid working foundation.

      Yet, saying that, I also know that others perceive me as strong, yet I feel anything but. Some days I feel lucky to be able to scrape by without the life I’ve built for myself collapsing in on me. So, I don’t want to invalidate what you’re saying. I know that feeling of walking a tightrope and hoping that no one decides to shake it.

      I often struggle with communicating that I’m on that tightrope… most people around me think that I’m on solid ground.

      You ask whether it’s all worth it… only you can decide that. Some of the things I’ve done in healing which I thought were low risk, turned out to be incredibly destabilising… others which I’ve feared for months, have turned out to be minor blips which helped my healing leap forward in huge steps.

      Take care,

  4. There is no way to prepare for a flashback, and sometimes no way to prepare for the consequences they precipitate in your life. But once you’re on the other side of it, and know it for what it is, you can begin to heal because it’s the fear of the unknown that really gets us sometimes.

    The fact that you recognize and identify these two images is a start, and it’s positive. You will share them with Allison when you are able, and when you are ready to move forward on what these images mean to you for good or for bad, and when you decide whether or not they are worth hanging onto or if you need to discard them for your healing. You will work through it, and you will survive. Of those two things I have no doubt. More over you will heal a little more. The destabilization is normal when you are getting ready to tackle something “new.” Just breathe, and remember that this too shall pass, and where it may be painful to work out, the pain is a healing one not a harming one.

    • Hi Storm Dweller,

      I shared the images with Allison last week… in all honesty, they are totally innocuous images… it’s what they mean that is shaking me up. Well, that and all the religious issues stirred up by Easter. So, part of the story is out there; I’m just not so sure about what to do with the rest of the story. Allison has been really understanding about it all, she also tries to ease the conversation to other areas to try and minimise any ruminating.

      Breathing, like sleep, is a bit of an unknown for me 🙂

      Thank you for your support…

      Take care,

  5. i just read a very helpful book.
    it is called black mamba boy.

    it is a true account of a boy growing up in eastern africa during and immediately after the italian invasion at the time of ww2. it is written by his now adult daughter.

    the other book i read this week was 22 brittania road – another sotry set during ww2 but this time abut the flight of a separated polish family from poland to england.

    our world seems so simple in comparison. whilst we know we are lucky – books like this tend to drive it home.


    • Hi g&a,

      I know what you mean about being lucky… I have a rental house, and am able to pay for my other bills because of a job which I trained for. I am grateful for what I have.

      When I read The Boy Who Was Raised As a Dog: And Other Stories from a Child Psychiatrist’s Notebook: What Traumatized Children Can Teach Us About Loss, Love and Healing, I also realised that I was given the basic nurturing which meant that I can walk in a straight line… so yes, I am aware of how lucky I am relative to many people.

      But I need to work on making a better life for myself – acknowledging the pain of the past, as well the positives that I have in my life. If I wallow in the pain, then it’s easy to get sucked under… if I ignore the pain, I risk repeating those same mistakes; just as I did with my marriage. Like so many things, it’s about finding the right balance of continuing finding the motivation to keep moving ahead, and not identifying myself only as a survivor. Being a survivor is part of my make-up, but not the only part.

      Take care,

  6. CG…it takes a long time for us to learn to trust ourselves…a big inner fight. The reason I see for this is that we were treated like what we thought and believed as children didn’t exist…ie: the abuse? So much got minimized to us that we/I questioned ourselves on what we were experiencing as to if it was even real or not. Then all the years that followed of them keeping it in the closet and never acknowledging anything to us. As children we always believe our parents to be right so we just automatically think stuff is wrong with us. After years and years of it…we learn not to trust our own instincts and beliefs….UGH it just sux. But that’s where it came from for me anyway. I do have trouble trusting myself and recognizing all the strength and courage I had…still have…in order to have gotten thru everything I did. After all…we already survived this stuff…we’ve gotta deal with the trauma of remembering and then reprocessing it with help this time. I hope your hanging in there and taking good care of yourself. This stuff is just awful to be going thru and there is just no easier way…trust me I’ve tried and tried to find one.
    Safe hugs girl!

    • Hi Nansie,

      Trust is such a huge issue, isn’t it? Being able to trust our own reactions, and the actions of others. It’s difficult not to fall back into those old ways of viewing the world, even though things are so very different now. We have the ability to walk away from a situation, or walk towards another… Options and choices that are often difficult to evaluate when your perceptions have been altered.

      Yes, we did survive the past. That means we have the ability to survive it again, we often don’t realise it.

      Take care,

      • CG…I could go on and on about this subject. My hardwiring will go off on stuff and then I am just reacting in the old ways without even being aware of it. It’s so hard to fight that internal wiring that has been there for decades now and I gotta rewire! It is the hardest part of this I swear…and impossible with the stress of school and then all that’s gone on at home. Sometimes when my guts are going off…like they do at home now I feel like I am going crazy. Because when they went off as a child I was so conditioned to ignore them and told that nothing was wrong and that I was the one having a problem and no one else and that everything I thought just didn’t exist. It’s surreal when this happens and such a crazy feeling inside. You really have a good attitude about it though…I don’t know about you but for me the hardest thing is holding onto that conviction within now instead of shutting it off and telling myself it’s wrong…ugh.

        • Hi Nansie,

          Even when we know it’s the old ways, and actively work to avoid those old patterns, they can still occur. It’s easy to see that as a failure, but even knowing we’re doing those old patterns is often an improvement over where we were before…

          I think in many ways I was lucky, as I wasn’t subjected to much invalidation. I never spoke of what was happening to me, so I didn’t get those messages about it being nothing. I think the validation that something is, and was, wrong is huge. It takes time to build up that self worth to a point where you can feel worthy of good care and attention.

          Please don’t be hard on yourself Nansie, you have a huge amount going on in your life right now… it’s time be be gentle and soothing, not beating yourself up over things. Yes, learn from your actions, but do it in a gentle and accepting way.

          Please take care of yourself,

  7. I’m sorry it’s been so hard. I’m in a strange space myself. But there are things now that do work.

    Is there any denial in what these memories are? If so, denial by you could be a power message to parts who hold the memories, and lead to it becoming an intractable problem.

    You talk a lot about band-aids. And, while I probably should tell you this offline, I really think now would be a good time to really document what is happening, minute to minute if you need to. Writing is like telling and it gets it out of your head.

    then you can go back to it.

    i’ll write you about the setup for it.


    • Hi Paul,

      I’m sorry you find yourself in a strange place, but am glad you’re seeing that there are now things that do work.

      There is denial states, which are being countered by flooding of emotions and memories. It’s like there’s an internal battle for the truth.

      Allison has already talked to me about the importance of a journal. I’m trialling one to see how it goes…

      Take care,

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