Connections and control

During the past week, I’ve had periods of feeling “good”… I’ve felt as if I’m together, emotionally consistent, and as if I can do this thing called life.  It’s at these times, that I wonder what all the fuss is about regarding my mental health.  I don’t remember the periods of disconnect, and everything seems to be going really well…  But then, someone tells me of something that happened a few hours previously, and I have no recollection of it.  I sort of know the event happened, but I have no connection to it, and don’t remember it as something “I’ve” done.  This throws me into confusion… am I being consistent now, or then?  Am I in denial?  Am I attention seeking?  I’m left wondering what’s going on…

It seems more and more as if my life is becoming a series of sound bites.  Each bite is disconnected from the previous one; but could be connected to one that occurred yesterday, or last week…  It’s all very confusing, and yet not.  That’s the odd thing about it all…  part of me thinks that there should be some panic about my functioning, but I don’t feel it.  Sometimes, I’ll feel a sense of confusion… but, its minor.  The disconnect seems to be minimising the emotional impact of it all, thereby increasing my apathy.

Yet, despite saying that I’m disconnected, I’ve had times of great connection.  Last Friday, there was a major rugby game played in town; because I talked to a friend, I left work a little later than usual, so met the rugby-bound traffic, and people walking to the stadium.  I was blind-sided by terror and flashbacks… memories of the past overwhelmed me.  I immediately started to look for ways to escape, and self-injure.  But then, I thought of the potential impact my actions might have on others… how would the friend that I was talking to after work react if they found out that I got hurt?  Would they connect my staying after work to talk to them, with my self-injury?  Would it hurt them to know that I was hurt?  I’ve often thought of the implications that my actions might have on others, so this line of thinking isn’t new… but, there was a different impact this time.

While thinking of my friend had an impact, the bigger realisation came by looking at the crowds walking to the stadium.  There was a high number of families amongst the crowd, many with children aged about 10 years, and above.  As I saw these children, I realised how small they were… walking in amongst these crowds, they looked so defenceless.  The adults were watching the children… making sure that they stayed with the family, that they watched traffic as they crossed the road… “normal stuff”.  But, that “normal stuff” is something that I don’t remember as a child.  I remember being alone.  I remember being taken places.  I wasn’t interacted with,  I was just “there”, left to my own devices.  Some would say that this encouraged independence, resilience, and all those good things… that may well have some merit, but it also taught me that I was alone in the world, that I couldn’t ask for help, and that no one would protect me.  The children in this crowd were different… they had families who seemed to protect them.  But the thing that continued to affect me, was their size… so small and defenceless… how could anyone that small stop the abuse?  I realised that if I self-injured, ones within the system who were smaller than the children amongst the crowd, would be hurt.  No matter how tough these ones say they are, and act… they are smaller than these children in front of me.  There’s no way that I would allow any of these children in front of me to be hurt, so why was I willing to allow myself to be hurt?

I decided that I couldn’t, or wouldn’t, allow the self-injury.  Anger towards myself, and my friend, hit…  I was removing the only way that some within the system get relief from the confusion and pain.  It’s now a week later, and I’m still feeling the impact…  There is a need to isolate and escape from the emotions stirred up last week.  Those emotions have been fuelled by the weekly stresses occurring within my life (work, family, etc).  When I look at it like this, the sound bite life, makes sense…  it’s the old way of coping with events that are beyond my control, or ability to deal with.  I know that a large part of my current state is due to a sense of control, or a perceived lack of control.  When I was a child, I felt the illusion of control through my solitary, insular existence… part of me is so very desperate to get that feeling back.

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18 thoughts on “Connections and control

  1. I know there was much more to your entry and I don’t want to seem like I’m discounting or minimalizing it, but your thoughts about protecting your littles really struck me.

    It’s a thought we frequently have and sometimes, like in your case, it keeps us in a “better place” and can occasionally reduce the amount of triggering.

    It’s nice to see that despite the dark childhoods a lot of us have come from, we still manage to have that protective instinct, even if it isn’t always towards “real” children.

    -Kit

    • Hi Kit,

      I didn’t feel as if you were discounting anything… you picked up on something that you identified with, and it’s a really important point. Just last week, Allison and I talked about that protective instinct… I’m more likely to show that instinct for external children, than any part of the system. I’m often hypervigilant around children, always watching for any threat that might be posed towards them. I’m less aware of protecting ones within my dissociative system, which is why the incident last Friday was so important. It was the first time that I’m aware of making a conscious decision to protect those young ones. I have made decisions in the past that has taken into account the impact of decisions on different ones, but never anything as direct as this.

      It’s all still a work in progress… I hope one day to care about myself, as much as I care about others.

      Thank you for stopping by and commenting 🙂

      Take care,
      CG

  2. Wow CG,

    Besides always enjoying your writing … you are very good at it … I am just really impressed and kind of in awe of the process that is happening for you. And one of the things that excites me so much not only as a friend, but also as a therapist, is that you’ve found a commitment to protect the smaller, younger ones in your system … or *any* in your system who would be negatively affected … from harm and the experience of abuse. It is so gratifying to hear that you can feel and inhabit a commitment to protect those parts … to protect yourself. And now you have added talking about the potential effects on people in relationship to you.

    Yes, there may be complications from other parts … those very set in their ways about what has to happen after we have certain feelings, certain experiences. After feeling good. After receiving a compliment, or when given an opportunity. When taking a risk by speaking up about feelings. When saying something that we maybe weren’t “supposed” to say. When breaking a “rule”. When entertaining … change. I wonder if you can negotiate with some of those parts, with your T or on your own, to acknowledge their struggles, the work they have done, and try to devise new ways and new agreements.

    I know it’s a difficult, messy road. Still, your intelligence, your insight, sensitivity and emotional awareness have brought you a very, very long way. I am so happy to hear that you have a number of connections you can choose to rely upon … and that you have allowed those connections to affect you. Yes, it brings us into a realm of insecurity … the complication and sometime messiness of relationships. But often it is and was relationships, for better or for worse, which have had the most impact upon us.

    Please take care,
    Michael

    • Hi Michael,

      Thank you 🙂

      I know that this is very much the early stages of building empathy and understanding within the system. I’d like to think that it’s an important step though… In part, I think some of the changes have come about through those external connections… I don’t think it was an accident that my mind went from my friends reaction, to considering the impact of the self-injury on the system. The different people around me have shown me that I might matter, and that my actions impact on them… they haven’t tried to control anything, but have shown what can happen for them, if something happens to me. It’s a level of caring that I’m not used to, and scares me greatly… Part of the continued reaction this week, was about eliminating the risk posed by those people caring. Thankfully, I think I’ve managed to ease that form of self-sabotage.

      I know what you are saying about communicating, and changing the default reactions of different ones. Last week showed me how linear my though processes could be… how ingrained those old behaviours, and reactions are; but, I showed myself that I don’t need to go to those defaults. It was difficult, and painful… but, it was worth it 🙂

      Relationships are messy… but, they are so important. I realise that now. I can no longer be the solitary girl playing on the steps of the club, waiting for something to happen… I can move on from that. Thank you for being one of the friends who is helping me to realise that 🙂

      Take care,
      CG

  3. I want to relay an example before I comment and hopefully it’ll make sense: the other week I spoke to my therapist and mentioned that I had wanted to self-injure a while ago. I told her that you and I had been tweeting (don’t ask me when this was) and because of that distraction I ended up making another choice which was to exercise. She congratulated me on making a healthy choice

    She told me that after making that kind of choice I couldn’t go back because I’d proven that I could do something else. I freaked inside because I felt a loss of control. I felt an option had been taken from me. I don’t think she meant that I would never self-harm again but her words threw me into a tizzy.

    My point in this was to say that I understood the reaction you had to those choices. They were excellent choices and I literally woohooed for you right here in my hotel room. 🙂 You showed a level of care that was profound and insightful. I made a promise to my younger parts that I wouldn’t injure in reaction to anything they showed me and I had to stick to that to develop inner trust. It is painful but someone has to protect them and that’s me.

    I’m wondering: did it connect for you that you couldn’t have stopped the abuse either because you were a child? Since connection is a valid issue, I wondered if the concept stuck?

    I think that being aware that people have real, sincere feelings of care for you is important. It can also be scary to feel maybe responsibility towards those people? Like it’s another burden? The good thing is that relationships may bring that fear but hopefully they give you strength too.

    I hope I didn’t ramble. It’s 4:30 in the morning and my musings are bad enough during daylight hours…I’m really proud of you. Is “good on you!” the right phrase?

    • Hi CI,

      I remember that Twitter conversation 🙂 I was so glad when you chose to exercise, rather than hurt yourself! But wow, I don’t know if I would have been able to handle your T’s response… Just because we’ve managed to find a healthier way of coping once, does not mean that the old ways of coping are immediately “gone”. Just the thought of that is anxiety causing… I know they’re unhealthy ways, but for some within the system, there’s a comfort in their dysfunction… it’s all they know, and all they know that will work. It takes time to shift to healthier coping mechanisms, and isn’t a switch that is flipped.

      The promise that you made is an incredibly important one… It’s a huge step to try and build that trust, and safety for you all… Kudos, my friend, you’re doing great work!

      It’s kind of liberating to see the different choices, though isn’t it? Yes, it’s incredibly difficult to navigate those choices… but even the fact that there is a choice, is huge. Sometimes I know that I won’t be capable of making a good choice, and it sure felt as if making the decision not to get hurt, was more painful than actually getting hurt. But, it was healthier in the long term.

      I could only see externally that those children would have been defenceless against the abuse; nothing stuck for me, internally. I don’t see myself as ever having been a child, or vulnerable… so I don’t identify with those children as being anything to do with me, except on an intellectual level.

      Yes, it can be scary to be aware of my impact on others (which sounds really narcissistic…). I once saw someone’s demeanour change so radically when I mentioned self injury, that it was like a physical blow. I realised that I’d affected them; and as I cared for them, I didn’t like to see their hurt. It was scary, confusing, good, awful, … everything! But, I think it was necessary. It helped me do a little bit of a reality check… Yes, I do feel it to be a bit of a burden and responsibility to protect the people who care about me; but, I’m also realising that this is about me protecting me, too. The caring of others, is also a really good way for me to start caring about myself.

      I don’t have it all sorted, by any means… I still stumble over the smallest of things… But, I think it’s helping, in the long term.

      I’m also aware that it can be a burden to care about someone like me, so that creates another tension…

      Yeah, lots of confusion… 🙂

      Thanks for your non-rambling, awesome comment 🙂 It was beauty, bonza, ripper, mate… 😉

      Take care,
      CG

      PS. Yes, good on you is the right term… I’ll turn you over to the dark side of kiwiness before you know it 🙂

  4. I can understand feeling like your life is a series of sound bites. But I have to say that if you are experiencing swathes of time where you feel “together” and “emotionally consistent”, that is significant progress. That’s something to build on. I know it can also make things more confusing when it shifts away from that place. I’ve always said that the more we heal, the harder it gets because we have to hold onto what we gain and at the same time we are able to experience fragmentation. But what you describe is certainly a huge gain overall.

    • Hi Paul,

      I think that part of my problem is that as I’m healing, I’m becoming more aware of the inconsistencies and losses in my functioning. I know these inconsistencies were there before, but I wasn’t as aware of them… they were basically lost in the dysfunction. But now, I see them, and it’s confusing (to say the least). I’m struggling to see it as a gain… all I feel is the confusion, and emotional overwhelm…

      Take care,
      CG

  5. Hi, I know I haven’t been commenting much but I’ve been reading and I’m so proud of you for making that choice! Well done 😀
    hugs, Alice x x x

    • Hi Alice,

      Thanks for the support… I’ve been finding it difficult to comment on blogs as well… I think many of us are struggling at the moment… Please, take care of yourself first…

      Wishing you all the best,
      CG

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