At the edge of my safety zone

Allison is useless! She doesn’t understand, and doesn’t want to. She says she cares, but they’re just hollow words.

These are the phrases that I’ve been repeating to myself since the beginning of the Rugby World Cup last year, if not for longer.  They were easy to believe… she tried to normalise things which I consider abnormal; and seemed to be buying into the stereotypical dissociative construct, rather than trying to understand my experience and symptoms.  It became easy to write her off as of being no help.  In fact, it became necessary to write her off… if I didn’t, I’d be opening myself up for more hurt.

I realise now, that these were all of my defence mechanisms coming into play – don’t let anyone get too close; only give one chance before putting up a wall; look for any hint that the person isn’t able to cope with what I’m presenting, and needs to be protected in some way.  In the dysfunctional realms of coping, this is my default position… it’s a form of protection born from early experiences; but I now realise that it is creating problems in my daily life.  It becomes easier to walk away, rather than let anyone get too close… and anyone who does dare to get close, is sometimes treated cruelly with the aim of encouraging them to leave – as part of a self-fulfilling prophecy that everyone leaves.

Considering how long I’d been sticking with the “Allison is useless” refrain, it’s interesting that I continued to see her.  Although I’m notoriously bad for ending any sort of relationship (professional or personal); I have been able to end things when they clearly aren’t working.  But, I think part of me knew that a huge part of the problem was me.  I used the excuse that if I stopped seeing Allison, no other therapist would see me… which does have some basis in reality, but is also a convenient excuse.  An excuse which would continue the testing of Allison, and punishment of myself…

Allison became the target for my cruel behaviour and disdain.  It became worse as the stress in my life increased, and as she began to show signs of understanding and caring.  A year ago, I was convinced that she didn’t believe anything I said regarding my self-injury… this year, she’s wanted to address it, and was expecting more personal responsibility and accountability.  But, I wasn’t really picking up on the changes; I was stuck in the “Allison is useless” mode of thinking.

Although, if I think about it, I possibly did notice the change in her understanding and awareness… which only frightened me more.  There is one thing more terrifying than no one believing me; and that’s having someone believe me.  It threatens the world of denial that I regularly envelope myself in, and means that I would have to face the emotional fall-out created by my life.  That possibility is beyond frightening.  Unpacking the boxes of hell that I keep within my head… nope, too much.  There were remembered threats from my childhood – if you tell anyone, then you’ll be locked up for lying… as well as perceived threats to ways of coping – what do I do if I can’t hurt?

It all became very messy… In order to stomp out the threat; the war against Allison took on new levels.  As the chaos that surrounds the month of February enveloped me; I lashed out like a wild, wounded, caged animal.  I don’t remember any of the therapy sessions that I’ve been to this year, beyond a few snippets of information; but Allison told me last week that I’d been nasty, and that it needed to change.  As for the snippets of the sessions that I do have… well, they’re all of the times Allison has made a mistake.  She is human, so is going to make mistakes; but in order to maintain the “Allison is useless” viewpoint, I needed ammunition… so, I found it.

But the one thing that seems to have seeped through my anger and dysfunction, is that Allison works from a place of caring.  She has a busy practice, so has no need to keep me as a client; yet, she continues to see me.  She’s even given me specific examples of the improvements that I’ve made over the last year… hardly the actions of someone who is as disinterested as I’ve led myself to believe.

In keeping with my defensive reactions to anyone caring; I think this realisation upped the ante, so to speak.   It threatened my continual need for invisibility, and added to my stress, rather than reducing it.  I don’t have a positive framework to put someone caring about me into.  All I have is dysfunction and abuse.  Allison and I have talked about this before… as soon as someone mentions that they “care” about me, I wonder what they want from me.  The two concepts are so tangled from my past, that I find it impossible to see what healthy caring looks like.  It’s for this reason that I avoid relationships of any sort.  I find online friendships easier to maintain… because I use the argument that someone online only sees what I allow them to see; and more importantly, they can’t physically see me.

So, where has all of this led me… well, it’s led me to the edge of my safety zone, and is pushing me into new territory.  It’s a place where I might have to accept that people can care without an agenda; and where I have to turn to face the skeletons of my past and present.  To say that I’m scared, would be an understatement.  I’m terrified.  Yet, I know that I have to take that leap into what seems like a huge void… They say healing and change is uncomfortable… that’s the understatement of the century.

Now playing: Sia – Breathe Me
via FoxyTunes


14 thoughts on “At the edge of my safety zone

  1. This resonated with me so much!
    It’s how I deal with people too. I push everyone away and convince myself I don’t need anyone.
    I hope you can move forward and take some risks. I know you will grow if you do 🙂

    • Hi Jay,

      The reason I wrote this, was because I thought others might identify with it. I’m not proud of how awful I’ve been to Allison, but I need to learn to identify what I do, and find ways to change it.

      I know it seems safer to be an island which no one can touch, or reach; but, it’s also lonely…

      I hope you can find new ways as well. You deserve all the good things…

      Take care,

  2. Oh wow CG, it sounds like you’ve been through the wringer… and have made one huge leaps in your healing. I know from bitter experience how confusing, painful, gut wrenchingly hard this is. Please stick with it, you are making great progress. ((hugs)) 🙂

    PS I love love LOVE that Sia song 🙂

    • Hi Kerro,

      I’m not really aware of being through the wringer… I’m not really aware of much of the last year 🙂 All I can think, is that this year had better start shaping up into a goodie!

      I’ve talked about needing to change, but the realisation of that is another thing. I know it won’t be easy, and I know it will be helped by coming out of the hell that is February; but, it’s still going to take time and effort. It helps to know that others have been there, and found a way through – thanks 🙂

      I love that Sia song too… she does some good ones, and some which are just odd!

      Take care, and with (((warm safe hugs)))

  3. CG,

    I’m happy for you! and scared right along with you! Edges of safety zones are frightening places to look forward from but kinda cool places to look back and see how far we’ve come. I’m glad you’re beginning to be able to feel unconditional caring. You so totally deserve to feel cared about.

    Take care,

    • Hi rl,

      It’s scary being at the edge of your safety, isn’t it? Sometimes we get shoved off, out into the void; and sometimes we resist moving like nothing else… this is one of those times where I’ve resisted it 🙂 It is cool to be able to look back though. It can bring a huge sense of accomplishment…

      I’m definitely not at the point of being able to accept the caring; but, I’m entertaining the possibility 🙂 There’s still a very big wall there, and part of that is the realisation of how badly I’ve probably been treating Allison. I know I can be difficult and challenging…

      I’m glad you’ve got some old safety zones that you can look back on… a great indication of the progress you’ve made 🙂

      Take care,

  4. I was thinking as I read this how much this makes sense. I can completely see why you would use defense mechanisms like this and why the idea of someone caring for you in the real world would be rejected. It can be too difficult to accept that a human being cares about you without wanting something from you.

    Also, the realization that someone believes you can be chilling, at least it was for me. Denying what happens has become a way of life and to have someone accept everything that you say or validate your feelings starts to plant the unpleasant idea that what was experienced was real. That is frightening and I think natural.

    I wondered if you’d be able to email Allison this post? I think that you wrote this so beautifully that it would be helpful for her to read it. Just a thought.

    And I’ll just add that I hope you take things slow and breathe so as not to get overwhelmed by the possibilities these realizations open up.

    • Hi CI,

      I really can’t untangle the caring = wanting something from me, thing… I just can’t. I know intellectually that it is possible to care for someone without wanting anything from them… I do it all the time with others. I just can’t transfer it over to myself. I always expect someone to want something and because my boundaries are so poor, I’m fearful of giving in without a thought and being sucked into being in another co-dependant relationship.

      Yes, as soon as someone really believes you, it ups the realness factor, and therefore, the scariness factor. It makes it more difficult to deny, and means you have to face the past and its consequences… really tough stuff.

      I emailed Allison this post, and a couple of others that I’ve written this year. I stopped emailing her near the end of last year as things got more and more out of control, so she’s been more in the dark than usual as to what is happening with me. I know that increased her fears regarding my safety.

      I imagine that this step will be a fairly slow process, as I’m so entrenched in my beliefs. Thankfully some of the stress has eased off in other areas of my life, so it won’t be so full-on.

      Thank you for your support CI, I really appreciate it 🙂

      Take care,

  5. it’s so hard to believe that people can care, I hope you do believe it though. I care, you can’t hide being a good person even online, you’re worth caring about and I hope you let allison care too.
    Hugs, Alice x

    • Hi Alice,

      It is really difficult to believe that people care, isn’t it? I just don’t understand it at all… Yet, I never expect anything from anybody that I care about.

      You said the most important phrase… I hope you let Allison care… I have to allow it, and that’s what I’ve been resisting, and denying. It will be interesting to see what happens tomorrow when I see her again.

      I hope you realise that you deserve that unconditional caring as well… you really do.

      Please take care,
      CG (((hugs)))

  6. Hi CG,

    I think your post is wonderful.

    For you to experience feelings of perceived betrayal with Allison or others, and to hold such feelings somewhat at bay; to suspend, or at least examine the reactions and responses that tend to come out of us as a result of such feelings, all in the service of your growth, healing and better relationships … Golden. To admit that you have tended to react defensively about others caring for you … that you consequently must ensure that you are invisible, to both others and yourself … that is a Revolution in the making. And you are looking at all of this within the context of relationships, and I think that is such a crucial avenue for working through traumas with relational components. You are looking at your own defense mechanisms, your own tendencies born of trauma, and this is so huge.

    “Unpacking the boxes of hell” is indeed entering dangerous and terrifying territory … but yes, I think that oftentimes it needs to be done at some point. However, you are allowed to do that in as safe, and as paced of a way as is possible. The work on the trauma, as well as the relationship components (along with assumptions of damage that will happen, and of trust that will be destroyed) will challenge the heretofore unchallengable assumptions: You’ll be locked up for lying. No one will believe you. You are protecting others by remaining silent.

    Don’t be frightened. Well, ok … BE frightened. But it’s all for good reason. It’s you moving out of a safety zone which has all at once protected you, and held you as it’s captive. It is growth.

    Finally, I hope you will continue to be very engaging with Allison. As a T myself, I recognize the parts of the process that are collaborative, and appreciate when my clients can bring me “pieces of truth” about their situation, or about our interaction or relationship … no matter how challenging that is. Not all T’s attend to this, but it is so important — I believe — in work with survivors.

    So nice to read this, CG. 🙂

    With Support,

    • Hi Michael,

      Thanks for the support and kind words 🙂

      I could write this post now, because I’m out of some of the worst of the triggers and stress… so, it was easier to step-back, reflect and make the connections. I know I could have spoken about my defence mechanisms last month, but I wouldn’t have been able to identify that I was using any of them. It was so messy and all-consuming.

      It was interesting that I treated Allison so badly, as that indicates that I saw her as a threat, and that a level of trust is there. Perverse as that sounds, it is possibly a good sign that there is a connection beginning to develop. Although, that doesn’t make it any easier for Allison to have to face, or for me to realise that I had been so nasty.

      I’m not sure about unpacking the box… I realise that I need to, but I can feel the wall going up just thinking about it 🙂 I can smile at the defences that I can so clearly see, and understand… Questioning the assumptions brings up more defence mechanisms, and they’re less smile-worthy; but, I know it needs to be done. I even know the questions which will start to get me to look at those assumptions… it’s times like this that I realise how difficult I can be to work with… I know the answer intellectually, but don’t know it emotionally, or can experience it. I know it’s frustrating for me, anyway 🙂

      Allison is always so appreciative of the sessions where I can communicate what is happening for me. I lost that ability over the last few months; but, I’m working on getting back there… I suppose it takes a reminder like this, to appreciate the job that therapists do…

      Take care,

    • Hi Storm Dweller,

      Thanks 🙂 Yes, it is scary stuff… I didn’t realise how scary it can be, until now. Thanks for the reassurance that it’s worth it… I need to keep reminding myself of that!

      Take care,

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