Therapy Friday – memory

It’s as if my mouth were sewn shut and i cannot speak. I know this was a ‘rule’ when I was a child – do not speak about the bad things. I went a step beyond that and blocked them out entirely. In therapy Friday one more little piece came back, and it’s been painful recovering.

The other thing that emerged was that some of my anger is trauma based. Yep. I kind of knew that, but this was a demonstration.

I got to Ron’s office a minute late, and we start a few minutes after the hour.

R. So you left the office…upset…last week.

E. Yes I did.

R. Do you remember what happened?

E. I was upset.

R. How come?

We sit.

E. I can’t think what to say. I thought of canceling, but then I didn’t, so I must have wanted to talk with you.

R. You find it difficult to talk to me when you are angry with me….

E. Yes.

I feel depressed and not at all like explaining how I’d felt last week. We sit quietly.

E. What were we talking about? Parts…how dissociation works.

Ron nods.

E. I felt like…..you wouldn’t talk to kid parts, you would only talk to me.

R. Did that make you angry? Or them angry?

E. I don’t know. It made me sad and upset. So….have you had any other clients with parts?

Ron looks offended.

R. Yes.

E. And how did that work out?

Ron doesn’t say anything, and I start laughing.

E. You can’t say anything. If you say it went badly….you can’t say it.

Ron smiles. I drop this subject.

E. I had a bad weekend. I was thinking of suicide so much. It was like an obsession. And it’s not as if I had a plan. I just kept thinking about it.

R. How did that thought go?

E. Oh, just that voice. I want to die. Like that.

R. Just the same thing over and over?

E. Kind of. And a couple of times, I tried to go out. I’d get dressed, bag, lipstick, everything, then couldn’t go out the door, I’d lie back down.

R. What was stopping you?

E. I think of it like an electric fence – and invisible line I can’t cross. You can’t see it from the outside.

Ron nods his head.

E. Don’t you think….for kid parts, you haven’t spent much time talking to them. I know you want to discuss deep and weighty topics here. But…if you had a child come in for therapy, say, do you think you might warm up to this with them first, or would you plunge right into details of abuse?

R. I’d warm up to them first. But you’ve been coming here for a year and a half – I’d think you’re used to me.

E. The kid parts haven’t.

R. But they listen.

E. No they don’t.

R. Then how did they decide to trust me?

E. I have no idea. It was clearly a bad idea that hasn’t worked out.

R. How so.

We sit. I’m feeling a heavy inarticulate anger mixed with hopelessness about being understood.

E. I was just considering whether this therapy was working out.

R. What were the considerations.

E. Well, I’m doing better than I was this time last year. I’m having less flashbacks – they were happening all the time last year. I’m not thinking of jumping in front of a train coming back after work. That was a very disturbing experience for me, when that happened. My social skills have improved.

R. And yet – what are the bad parts.

E. I feel angry with you.

R. Try to speak from that anger.

E. Well…I’d have to speak from a kid part.

R. OK.

E. OK. This therapy is stupid. This room is stupid, it’s too small.

R. Why is the therapy stupid?

E. Because we don’t talk about stuff….stuff that happened. It’s stupid.

R. What is the stuff that happened? I’d like to know about it.

We sit. I feel angry, as a child would, not just when something has happened, but afterwards, when a grown-up unexpectedly wants to hear my side of it. I feel the enormous difficulty of explaining myself for grown-up ears.

Words fail me, so we sit, but something is happening for me. I just sit. I start to sob.

E. I’m sorry i spilled it! I didn’t mean to do it. I’m sorry.

I sob. This is a very young child part and I’ve turned into her. I cry, then I get extremely frightened and shake, then I howl, and then this receeds a bit.

E. It’s as if there’s water everywhere. I’m at the beach. We’re on holidays.

R. Do you know who is scaring you?

E. No. I guess I spilled something. Maybe it was pop, lemonade, something sweet and sticky. There’s sand everywhere. There are rocks off to the side.

R. Who do you think is there?

E. I guess my family. Or maybe my uncle, as he was the man for abuse.

R. Did you notice how frightened you were?

E. Yes.

R. So someone terrorized you and frightened you.

E. Seems like it.

I’ve switched back. That’s all the memory there is. It’s as if I erase all the people from the scene, leaving just the surroundings and the feeling of terror and severe child upset.

I no longer feel as angry with Ron, just shaken by this partial memory. We sit and I recover. The session is almost over. All of a sudden I feel able to talk.

E. Oh I wanted to talk to you about the group. It starts in a few weeks, right?

R. Yes, two weeks after Thanksgiving.

E. I wish R wasn’t going to the group. I don’t like him. I don’t want to hear what he has to say. Maybe he moved to find work somewhere….Like Calgary. Maybe he move to Alberta to find work.

Ron just looks at me.

E. But probably not. He seemed pretty entrenched here. I don’t want to meet him again.

E. Well, I did want to talk to you about the group, not just that, but there’s no time to discuss it.

R. Why don’t you tell me the topics and I can hold them for next time.

E. To prepare your defense?

R. No, just to hold them. Oh, and I won’t be here next Friday…can you make Tuesday?

So we spend time rescheduling for next week.

I pick up my bag and go to the door. Ron holds the door open. I look at him as I go out. It seems to me he looks at me as if I might be dangerously insane. I mutter a thank you, he says take care.

So I’ve spent the weekend trying to allow this new memory fragment. All that sorrow and fear. I don’t know what happened, but it was severe enough that it was split off and held in a part.

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16 comments
  1. Ruth said:

    Hugs, remembering the forgotten history is hard. My counselor would remind me if I lived through it once I can remember it now and process the information that was too overwhelming then. I am impressed by the huge steps you took by asking Ron about counseling others with parts. I see a lot of courage in what you did during your session. You are amazing.

    • Ellen said:

      It is hard, that’s why we forgot it. I find it frustrating that if I am going to deal with a memory, I don’t get the whole memory, just these pieces. Still, it’s a big reason I go the therapy to deal with this forgotten stuff. Thanks for the kind words Ruth.

      • Ruth said:

        Another way to view this is that you mind has kept this hidden for a long time. Letting you see a portion of the memory at a time is less overwhelming. I once had a complete incident crash into my mind all at once. Couldn’t go to work the next day, totally wiped me out. I found that a bit at a time is sometimes easier to process.

        • Ellen said:

          Yes, that’s a really good point which is easy to forget. My mind is trying to take care of me the best way it knows how. I find even the fragments wipe me out, so I schedule therapy on Fridays so I have the weekend if I need it. Thanks!

  2. i am glad you were able to tell him how angry you were, although it led you to a very painful place. i hope you were able to gain a little equilibrium as the weekend went on. i find new memories/flashbacks devastating, too.

    • Ellen said:

      They are devastating and I’m sorry you experience that also. Thanks Catherine.

  3. Penney Knightly said:

    Ellen,

    It’s admirable that you spoke so openly with your therapist. Telling someone you’re angry with them, or feel misunderstood is frightening, particularly when you’re not sure where the emotion is coming from (this is so frequent with parts) and you’re not sure how to label it. I think you did an excellent job expressing yourself and being brave enough to let the truth out. I think as you go along in your healing you’ll come to realize more and more as I have that even though having a part out to explain something or relive something can be frustrating and horrifying as all hell, it is ultimately the only way to heal. I heard an analogy that has worked for me: let’s say you were diagnosed with cancer and had a tumor. The only way for you to survive is to have someone remove it. That involves you psyching up emotionally, and enabling someone to cut into your body. You feel violated, hurt, you bleed but in the end, you come out stronger and better than ever.

    I resent people cutting into me (brain digging in therapy / recovered memories) and sometimes it really pisses me off. The reason you’re angry is because the process is hurtful and it is invasive. Just because you want him to help, you need the help, and you both agree to it, does mean that it’s not going to make you angry that someone is observing you, analyzing you, and poking your insides. Don’t be afraid to tell him how you feel. I’m sure you’re not the first or the last patient he’s had that has been angry with him. Due to the nature of your trauma, and the dissociation you experience, there’s no doubt that lots and lots of anger are stored up inside of you. It’s important that you express it safely and identify where it’s coming from as best as you can. Dissociation is all about unpleasant-anything being suppressed – but you want to move beyond that pattern and get in touch with yourself and your reality.

    Hugs and good wishes for you this week. Be gentle with yourself and loving – you deserve the kindness. (Whenever I think, “I don’t deserve kindness”, I ask myself: how would I treat someone else going through what I’m going through? Or, how would I treat a little girl who had experienced what I experienced at that age?

    You are making great progress, hold on to that fact.

    Love,
    Penney

    • Ellen said:

      Hi Penney, Wow. I wonder if that is it — I’m angry at the invasive ‘surgery’. It could be. I definitely feel a lot of anger at times. I’m finding I don’t really know where my feelings are coming from – it seems like out of nowhere. I’m starting to think that’s because some of these feelings are coming from parts.

      Thanks for sharing your experience and the kind words. I really appreciate it. I’m feeling confused so it’s great to get your input. Hugs

    • Ellen said:

      That is a good post, thank you Penney

  4. It’s all so d**n confusing, isn’t it? And it’s so hard to be patient and gentle with ourselves while we fumble through finding our way. I hope that this weekend was easier than last.

    • Ellen said:

      Confusing is the word. What a mess. Thanks, this weekend was better. Difficult in a different way, but better. Thanks for commenting.

  5. Amanda said:

    Hi there … I just wanted to pop in and say that I am so glad you were able to speak so openly with Ron. I’m sure it wasn’t easy, but it sounded like you really needed him to hear you. You are continuing to do such beneficial work, and I’m glad you’re carrying on with it.

    • Ellen said:

      Thanks Amanda, appreciated.

  6. Penney Knightly said:

    Glad you’re hanging in and thinking over how you feel and think – do you know how amazing that makes you?

    I hope you are having a good Wednesday. You’ve inspired me to be among nature and go to the park – after seeing children play and swing on monkey bars, it’s difficult to be too sad.

    It’s also difficult to be sad while standing in the warm glow of the sun. One friend smartly said to me yesterday “Bad memories don’t like the sunshine, the darkness can’t thrive in the light” and I found it to be true.

    • Ellen said:

      I love being around kids on a playground also. All that life and energy gives me hope and a bit of perspective. And sunshine is great also. I’m going to head to the park today. Thanks

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