Goodbye Allison

Last week I had my final session with Allison. The person who has listened to my secrets, encouraged me to talk, tried to understand my experience, and connected with me on many levels; is no longer in my life. I’m not sure how to deal with that reality… or, if it’s even possible to deal with at the moment.

We departed on amicable terms, in that I’ve moved from the area; but, that leaving was oh so difficult. I’m not sure that I fully comprehend what it meant to work with Allison. We formed a therapeutic relationship that allowed me to explore my experience in a safe environment. There were times when we got frustrated with, or misunderstood each other; but there was a desire to keep working on that relationship and find out why things were difficult. This gave me a valuable framework for my relationships outside of her office. I came to understand that people could be frustrated with me, but not want to hurt me… I learned that people were affected and effected by my actions and my past… That realisation was incredibly difficult, and I’m still not sure that I fully accept or understand it.

Allison walked with me as I tried to heal. At times I lamented that I hadn’t made any significant changes in my healing or reactions… but, then we would discuss seemingly little things like now being able to identify and talk about things that are causing me anxiety. I say this is “seemingly little”, but it isn’t. To put it into context, a few years ago when Allison would ask me what issues were affecting me, I’d say “everything… work, neighbours, family, relationships, healing… everything”. I meant it… everything seemed so overwhelming and beyond me, that I wanted to give up… it was all too big to deal with… But, more recently, I’ve been able to break down that overwhelming “everything” statement into more manageable and accurate descriptions of the problems. I’d be able to name the issues associated with that stress; rather than bundle it all into this huge “everything” statement that wouldn’t be able to be addressed until much later – if at all.

Addressing the issues within a therapeutic framework is difficult. I’m not used to being the focus of a safe person’s attention… I’m not used to the empathetic responses that Allison exhibited… I often railed against her attention and response; but, that was about my inability to cope with my emotions. I’m still learning how to cope with that safety… I hope that one day I’ll be able to understand what safety is, and what it feels like to exist within a safe environment…

During my last session with Allison, I began to get an understanding of some of the fears about no longer seeing her, or going to her office… There was a young and vulnerable fear that everything I shared in her office would disappear… At the time, I thought that meant that there was a fear that the secrets that I shared with her would be forgotten. On one level this forgetting was considered an advantage, as it would mean that the pain the secrets held would no longer have an impact on Allison. Another advantage of the loss of the secrets, was that Allison wouldn’t be hurt or bothered by the people who hurt me – I was told that the people who knew the secrets would be hurt, or killed. Then, there is the flip-side to the secrets disappearance/being forgetten… Does that mean that the telling didn’t happen?? Does it mean that the events described within the secrets, didn’t happen?? Does it mean that we don’t exist??

The question “Does it mean that we don’t exist” is still the hardest one to contemplate. Allison bore witness to many of my secrets, and has reassured me that she won’t forget me or my secrets… A part of me doesn’t believe her reassurances, and another part is hopeful she will remember… But the fear that my time with Allison was all a fabrication and didn’t really happen is very present. I have a dissociative coping mechanism where I quickly forget people and places… especially if they mean a great deal to me. This dissociative coping, means that I’ve already lost most of my memories of being in Allison’s office. I can see glimpses of it, but nothing lasting or meaningful. It’s crazy-making… How can I so quickly lose something that was important to me?

This brings me to another of my huge regrets during my time with Allison… I can only remember looking at her face once in all my time with her. I know that may sound silly, or even impossible, but it’s true. I have so much shame, that I can’t bring myself to look people in the eye… especially someone, like Allison, who knows some of my secrets. I can usually look people in the eye at work, but rarely in any other setting. I tried to talk myself into looking Allison in the eye during our last session; but couldn’t do it. I wish I had…

So now, I find myself in a strange city without a therapist. I initially rejected the idea of finding a therapist soon after arriving here, as I wanted time to grieve my relationship with Allison. But now, I’m not so sure… I seem to be coming apart at the seams… Denial and dysfunction are high on my list of coping behaviours… So I’m struggling to look for ways to move forward within my new life…

Please let me find a way…

—————-
Now playing: Enya – Only time

Fathers Day awareness

Sunday was Fathers Day in New Zealand.  As the day was approaching, a friend asked me how I reacted to the day – whether it needed to be something on my radar of potentially rough, or triggering days.  My response was a rather confident and nonchalant…  “Oh, it’s no big deal.  I usually hide out and withdraw, but am fine”.  I wasn’t minimising anything with my response; I was answering from a place of honesty, based on what I remembered from previous years.

This year however, was different…  Very different…  I was swept away by overwhelming emotions, lost great chunks of time, and felt the need for demeaning forms of self injury.  On some level, I remained functional… I tweeted, cleaned the house, did some gardening, and finished some chores.  But, I also had flashbacks that left me curled up in terror, I easily became disorientated as to time and place, and experienced an emotional roller-coaster that left me shaking like a leaf.

I say that this year was different, but I wonder if it really was.  Did I react differently to it; or, was I just more aware of my reactions to the day?  This is the question that I’ve been asking myself… I wonder about it because if I’m more aware, then that indicates a level of healing that is positive in the long-term… But, if this year was bad purely because I approached it in a different way, then that could indicate that I’m back-sliding by “looking for triggers”.  Either option is possible, but the latter seems more likely.  I feel less connected to everything and everyone than I did at the start of last year, so find it difficult to believe that the awareness is about positive healing…

As soon as I type that, a voice of dissent that speaks up… Allison has seen improvements in my functioning, and being aware of the chaos has to be a good indicator, doesn’t it?  And so it goes on… this continual to and fro.

Then, I see the internal arguments for what they are… another form of distraction.  If I get caught up in an internal argument over my progress, or lack thereof; then I can avoid reflecting on the weekend…  Instead of paying attention to the pain and associated feelings, I can start intellectualising.  Climb back into my comfort zone of internal debates about what constitutes healing, defines progress, etc…  That’s one step away from beating myself up for not being “healed” yet (whatever that means).

Ahhh Distraction Land, I know you well…

I know that we all need to distract sometimes; but, I need to learn to face my experiences as well.  No matter the reason why I had such a rough weekend, it was rough.  I need to learn how to cope with that… to learn how I can manage those times better… to heal…

In this instance, it was my emotional reaction to Fathers Day.  It would be really easy to now put that event in a box within my mind, label is as a triggering day, and store it away.  Yes, that plan of action would help me prepare for next year, but what can I learn from it to help my everyday life?  I think that’s where my healing will come from… I’m already really good at compartmentalising things, and what I really need to learn, is how to ease those compartments so that they blend into my everyday existence.  I’m always going to experience triggers – that’s just life.  I need to learn how to cope with those triggers better every single day, not just on triggering days…

An indication that I still have a long way to go in my healing, is that I deliberately chose to go to the lake on Fathers Day to take photos… On one level, this was a good decision, as I often feel a sense of calm by the water; but, on other levels, it was such a bad choice…  It was Fathers Day, after all… that means families playing together, and in particular fathers being the centre of attention within those families.  At times these images can be positive, and act as a reminder that not all fathers hurt their children… at other times, they can cut like a knife through my wounds.

Was it wise to go to the lake?  Probably not.  Another friend once told me about looking for the windows of opportunity in a situation… the windows where there is the possibility for you to choose a different option, or way forward.  I had one of those windows when I was deciding where to go to take photos… I could have chosen somewhere less triggering, but I didn’t.  This was reflected in the photos I took… Some reflected my pain…

While others reflected my ability to be in the moment…

Sparrow

I’m not so good at being in the present moment…

—————-
Now playing: Eddie Vedder – Don’t be shy

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

Protected: Denial & shifts

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Lost in the clouds

Flying through space, dissociated from everything
Watching all my fellow travellers trying to touch ground
But there is no ground in this strange land, just clouds
These clouds provide no sanctuary
They encourage you to fly higher and higher
Soaring higher into the bright blue sky

The colours are bright here in this cloud filled world
Blues are bluer
Greens are greener
Blood is redder
Smells are more intense too
Cigarette smoke burns your nose and lungs
Musty worn seats fill your senses

Memories fill the clouds
Clouds of pain
Clouds of scorn
Clouds of tears
Clouds of events you want to forget
Each touches you as you float by
Trying to grasp onto the cloud, only makes it dissipate before you

The clouds, like you, are lost with nowhere to go