Therapy Friday 1

I’m still processing my last therapy session. I seem to need to lie down a lot and just allow feelings to come up, which for me tends to be sensations and not so much concrete feelings like sadness. Though there is a large component of sadness and anger,  but also….it feels almost like allowing parts of my body to thaw out. Thawing takes a long time and can be a painful process. So I feel heavy, clumsy and kind of sleepy all the time.

I have tried to blog my session but can’t manage it this time. I’ve blocked out some of it it seems. I will summarize instead.

Ron was kind of rumpled and bristly looking this Friday, which I don’t mind at all. Kind of blurred around the edges.

We talked about how I feel after exercise, and a bit about friendships.

E. I’ve been swimming and went jogging once. I’m tired of avoiding everything because everything makes me dissociated, so it’s ended up I do almost nothing. And right now, I have time to be non-functional, so I decided I’m going to exercise a bit. I’m trying to calibrate it so the after effects aren’t too severe.

R. So what happens. Do you like exercise?

E. Yes. I’m fine while I’m exercising. I don’t exercise hard – I don’t even break a sweat, or exercise as much as you’re supposed to to get an anti-depressant effect. Everything seems fine while I’m doing it. Just when I get home. It varies depending on how much I did. But the severe case is I am Ok for the first hour or so, energetic. Then I get hit with a huge tiredness. I think I’ll just lie down for a minute. I fall asleep. Then I wake up and I’m so depressed, I can’t really function, my mind is slowed down…then it takes me three or four hours to get out of that state.

R. What are you thinking when you are depressed.

E. I don’t know – nothing much. My mind is slowed down. I think about dying I guess.

My walk with R triggered this whole process also.

E. So I went on a walk with R, whom you know, who is in your group.

As if Ron would have forgotten who R is.

R. Yes?

Ron gets this remote expression on his face.

E. Wow, that look….

R. How do I look?

E. You look….it’s hard to describe. Like you’re saying, oh I’ve seen this before….

R. Like I’ve seen this before?

E. Not exactly – I’m trying to describe how you look. Hostile is too strong a word…not friendly.

Ron doesn’t reply to this. My impression is he doesn’t approve of a friendship between R and myself, but I’m eager to talk about what happened after the walk, so I don’t ask him about this. After the session, I really wanted to know what his opinion is.

E. We went for a walk, and we walked for longer than I’m comfortable with, past the bridge….we walked almost two hours.

R. You felt connected to R?

E. Yes. So the next day, I’m out shopping, and all of a sudden I’m hit by this wave of sadness. I thought I needed to go home right away. So at home, it was as if I’d been in a therapy session with you or something. I needed to lie down, I felt really really awful.

R. What were you thinking when you were out shopping?

E. Nothing – Just about food. I was buying chicken. I was wondering about the free-range chicken, how expensive it would be.

R. So with exercise, feeling connected to someone, taking care of yourself by buying free-range chicken – you end up back in your body. You are more yourself then, not less.

This seems so wrong to me. I fall into these awful states where I can’t function, and Ron thinks that’s my real self?

E. What? So the theory is, I’m disconnected from my body usually, then with exercise, I connect with my body, and that feels really bad to me? This is the theory?

Ron nods his head.

E. I wonder….R and I were talking about some deeper things. I was explaining a bit about my issues, therapy….I wonder if that stirred things up for me. I wish I hadn’t talked about those things.

Then Ron starts saying stuff about dissociation. He also tries to pinpoint the time when I dissociate. It’s all probably true and worth-while, but it makes me angry.

E. There, it’s happening now. I feel those feelings – dissociated, like I’m split in half. I can’t understand what you’re saying to me. I feel….sad.

R. Why do you feel sad?

E. I don’t know why. It doesn’t make sense.

R. You’ve talked in the past about things that it makes sense to be sad about.

E. And I feel angry. With you. Because….you have no idea how much I’ve struggled with this, tried to feel, been disabled by it.

R. I know you’ve worked hard on it. And…I’m perhaps being an authority figure, patriarchal, and you need to block out what I say.

E. But you’re not like that.

R. Maybe enough like that that you react.

Then I sit and struggle with these feelings. Anger, sadness, and being taken over somehow, because I don’t understand where these feelings are coming from.

And at some point here, Ron ends up gazing at me again, and I gaze back. His eyes are a deep medium blue. Usually they just look dark, with the window behind him, but today I can see the colour.

to be continued

  1. Laura said:

    hi Ellen,I think that alot of my feelings – especially sudden changes, have to do with a direction my thoughts took, and I'm gradually getting more mindful and aware of that connection so that I can trace back where the feeling started. (I don't get huge waves, tho.)it seemed like Ron was getting at this – the feelings that come up for you don't seem to be related to your thoughts of the moment – you're thinking about free-range chicken and you feel a huge wave of sadness (probably, for all those chickens who AREN'T free-range!). When it's so long after the triggering event, how do you know that it's related?Another thing is that when you have a feeling (like sadness) there are no thoughts, memories or images that go with that? I have sad THOUGHTS, angry THOUGHTS. You can be sad for several hours – just a feeling without words or images? I'm kind of lost when there's no text to go on.

  2. Ellen said:

    Hi Laura,Yes, I can see how this is very confusing. And I left out a bit also, but in general, this is how I work. PTSD symptoms are like waves of things that break through, out of ocntext. However, yeah, Ron would like to connect what I'm thinking about to how I feel, but for me, for these types of feelings, they don't seem to be related. Your process is more the regular process….the way you've described it anyway. For this particular time, with the chicken, it wasn't just sadness. When I got home, I fell into this deep kind of depression where I had to lie down and just feel. There are no real images that go with this for me – it's like part of a memory without the story, or context, like you're saying. I linked it to the walk because that amount of exercise does bring on those states for me, and I'd been on the walk just the previous evening. For my shopping to cause this just doesn't make any kind of sense at all. I'm trying to get at what the story / memory is, but I can't so far, I've blocked it out. I think I have a kind of illness of memory – the memories are not connected to the feelings in a way I can make sense of.Thanks for commenting even though my account is confusing! Cheers

  3. This seems so wrong to me. I fall into these awful states where I can't function, and Ron thinks that's my real self?I don't think he's saying the depressed/dissociated experience is your real self, but those moments just before it… when floating in the pool, when talking authentically to a new friend, when nurturing your body with good food (however unconsciously), those are the "real" moments. and somehow these moments so quickly slide into something else. i can relate to what he is describing…

  4. gniz said:

    Hey Ellen. As usual, I've been reading and following pretty much every post, but not always commenting.In this case, I'd just like to throw another angle on things regarding what Ron might have meant about you coming back to your body and feeling so horrible.My experience has been that when I carry around a lot of stress, anxiety and tension–and I don't deal properly with processing it–I don't want to stay present with my body and my mind and my life.The more tension and emotional pain I've built up, the more difficult it is to stay present. And if it's become a true backlog, the pain involved in simply staying with my present bodily experience can feel absolutely torturous.So perhaps what Ron was indicating is that when you are feeling so awful, there is a sense that now you are in your body, full present, and dealing with processing all of this trauma that you've been pushing down and stuffing away and trying to ignore or not deal with.I wouldn't say that that is the sum and total of who you are–the times when you feel relaxed and at ease and peaceful is also you and your real experience.But the amount of trauma you have undergone may have created a situation where being present in processing it feels like everything is just horrible and awful and wrong. You don't seem to have created the context yet to put these feelings and this processing into perspective.So when you feel this darkness, this depression–rather than knowing that this is what needs to be felt in order to release all of the pent up and repressed tension and pain–you see it as a sign that something is horribly wrong.This is a theory based on my own experience and certainly could be totally off the mark for you.Best of luck.Aaron

  5. gniz said:

    Also, it may be too simplistic to say that feeling depressed is effectively processing trauma. Feeling depressed may be a sign that there is tension and pain that needs processing.Next I have to find ways to process it and release it in order to lift the depression.For me, its been breathing and meditating to work through my pain. Everyone has different methods.

  6. Ruth said:

    Hi Ellen,If you have a kind of illness of memory then you are not the only one. I could feel or I could remember events, I couldn't do both at the same time. I have the feeling then I would need to piece together why I might feel that way. Hard to do when there could be a disconnect between event and feeling. Confusing thing was sometimes I would jump to the wrong conclusion between event and emotion. Sometimes the real trigger was a smell or words that were similar to another event. I sure understand your frustration when someone else is trying to pin down something you can't pin down yourself. Keep going because I agree with Ron that you are headed in the right direction. Feeling distressed over the frustration increases the problem. I am very impressed with the way that you are choosing a time when you can allow yourself to enter the depression. I found pushing those limits helps uncover more information. You are doing hard work and I am impressed by your persistence. Go you.Ruth

  7. Laura said:

    not that it matters, but I'm not convinced that the wave of sadness in the supermarket had anything to do with the walk, 24 hours earlier. It seems like a stretch, like you're forcing your experience to "make sense". I'm sure it does make sense, but you may not be able to see it, yet. Maybe being with R made a difference in your response – or something else.We've noticed before that your mind is always creating (negative) explanations for what you experience. In this case, you might see taking a walk with R as something you'll have to pay for, later.I can see how PTSD would cause a very sudden change in your emotional state, but I would think there would still be some kind of an association with the past – a link between what's happening in the present, and the experience of the past. If you jump to conclude that exercise was the triggering event, you might miss the thought or something you saw or heard or smelled – that was the actual trigger. (PTSD expert, here.)I thought Ron WAS referring to the 'horrible' feelings that come through as 'the real you'. I took it to mean that you are resisting those feelings, trying to keep them out, and the reason is because they seem to threaten to overwhelm you. perhaps if you can befriend those feelings, and increase your tolerance, they won't seem so horrible. I think you're on that path, truly.

  8. Ruth said:

    Laura, my experience with PTSD is an emotional reaction or disconnect can happen days later which makes pin pointing something down that much more difficult. What the actual trigger is can be cloaked in the events that are the reaction. Only occasionally did I have a clear connect between a reaction and an event. Find it hard to decide for someone else where on the continuum they are in connecting things together. PTSD manifests itself differently in different people, in my opinion.

  9. Laura said:

    hi Ruth, thanks for trying to explain. It's outside of my experience, for sure, but it seems like Ellen is saying that her brain works differently than almost every human brain, if she can go for hours without thoughts, only emotions, and if she can have a response so long after a suspected trigger. Even though the response was a day later, and it wasn't dissociation. I'm just saying that perhaps she's trying to rationalize a connection, when what needs to happen is closer investigation. Not a rush to certainty. I think Ron might be pointing in that direction, and I'm sure he's better educated than I am.but perhaps this is exactly the kind of blah-blah-blah logical response that misses the whole point?

  10. Ellen said:

    @ obd – Hmmm…maybe. My take was he thinks the sadness is something I push down all the time, then when it breaks through, that's my real self 'speaking' as it were. I know this is not how you see your own process though. take care Catherine@ gniz – That makes complete sense to me, thank you. I love how you explain that Aaron. I think it's true, and the part that I'm missing is the story – why I am feeling like this. And yes, depression is not necessarily processing. Sometimes I'm not sure if it's depression or pain/grief/sadness. Sometimes I use the term 'depression' as a catch-all for all of this. I think depression itself can be like a lid I keep on my feelings….so being caught up in that is not a good thing. Breathing through it is really good sometimes. And the fact is that I get through it after a time, if I pay enough attention.Thanks for the insights.

  11. Ellen said:

    @ Ruth – Yep, for me also, event and feeling are not connected properly. It's extremely confusing, and leads to all kinds of mistaken thoughts about what's actually happening to me. It's frustrating to be this confused in itself, and then when someone tries to help, bang, I get mad at them. Hopefully Ron has patience and understanding.It's great to know I'm not alone in this and you worked through it. Thanks for the encouragement.

  12. Ellen said:

    @ Laura – Yeah, I can see how the time lag seems strange. There are actually threads connecting those times that I haven't described. Then I have an ability to put up a wall for emotions, which then break through some time later. But in a way it doesn't matter – the subsequent feelings weren't 'caused' by the trigger. And yes, the trigger would have something that reminds me of the actual event / problem….I just haven't found what that is yet. Yes, I agree with your last paragraph – that was what Ron was referring to, and learning to tolerate those feelings is the path. Thanks@ Ruth – Yep, that is how I see it also. PTSD is difficult to explain sometimes. thanks

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