I’ve been feeling disconnected from healing and blogging lately. I’ve been coping well, which is not at all the same as healing, is it.

Today for instance I got more done than I usually get done in a month. I got all my tax slips, receipts, statements together for my tax guy, who always scares me but I think he does an OK job. So now all my mail is opened and filed, and in honour of this, I brushed the dirt off my desk and wiped it all clean. Vacuumed and dabbed at the bathroom.

I am cooking a lot. On the weekend, a friend who also has stomach issues said she finds eating a lot of vegetables calms her system down. I tried it and it seems to help, but it means a lot of chopping and cooking. Apparently veggies are alkaline, so soothe the stomach. Who knew?

As a result, my nausea issues are pretty minimal right now. Which is wonderful. A lot of work but it’s worth it.

Another thing I learned is it’s good to eat a bit of raw food with meals, as they provide enzymes, and that seems to help also.

I saw Ron Tuesday a week ago, as he was going away for the long weekend. So I’ll see him again Thursday at group and then Friday as per usual.

On Tuesday we talked about a visit I’d paid to my family for mother’s day. Not a favorite topic of mine. I discussed how withdrawn my mother is, so quiet she seems to be on another planet.

Also I’d noticed that if I try to talk about anything that concerns me, the topic gets changed to something safer very quickly. I’m not talking about discussions of abuse or the past either. I tried to talk to my father about going to the naturopath….he has had digestive issues all his life, and so I thought he’d be interested. It seemed to make him really nervous when I talked about that, and he turned away to something else really quickly.

The other time I tried to discuss something, I wanted to tell my mother about something my ex has done which upset me. It is not something done to me, but something that is not a good thing for him, but is typical of how he behaves. I told her about it, and I was kind of agitated, explaining the details, as it upset me. She said almost nothing. Then my sister changed the subject almost right away to the excellence of the pie they were eating.

The two topics that seem to be allowed are food and the garden. With a bit about the weather for variety.

It made me feel kind of ghost like and unreal. So I left after an hour and a half. Then it took me a day to get over the visit.

I don’t remember what Ron said about this. That session I had a lot to talk about, so didn’t give him much of a chance. We speculated about why my father and then my mother didn’t respond to me.

I wondered if my mother thought I was gossiping, by talking about my ex. Maybe. She never gossips. But then, she rarely discusses anything. I feel she’s not that interested in people, not enough to discuss them in any case.

Ron wondered if my father felt that I was trying a method to deal with my health that wasn’t his method…Perhaps.

It occurs to me that I have little insight into why my family acts as they do, beyond that they don’t wish to deal with anything by talking about it.

In group the focus was on me. I talked about this family situation. Then somehow I got onto this dreamlike memory I’d had in therapy the previous Friday. Then out of the blue the emotions of that experience hit me, and I was suddenly a tiny child crying about something I couldn’t remember much about.

It was a very disorienting experience to have that happen to me in group.

It was OK to go through that in group. The part I didn’t like was after. I kind of switched back out, but was dissociated – my mind wasn’t working, which I said.

Ron asked the group to give me feedback, and people were generally kind and supportive. One comment was that this person felt like she wanted to pick up that child that I’d been and hold her until I felt better.

I could barely take in what people were saying, as I’d been completely thrown into the past.

So I just said thanks. Then Ron took this up – why was I so abrupt? Dismissive? I told him my mind wasn’t working properly. He took that to mean I’d dissociated because of the feedback. NO no no no. God. How can he still not understand what happens?

I dissociated because I’d had this flashback type thing happen, and then needed to cope with being in the group. Ron’s point was that I couldn’t accept caring when it is offered.

Maybe. But I can’t accept anything when I’m kind of shocked and dissociated. And I can’t clear up misunderstandings either – I’m just not functioning well at that point.

So we had our usual misunderstanding. However I wrote him an email about it that night. I knew he was leaving town the next day, so I was hoping very much that he would respond first. And he did. So I felt better and that I could survive the weekend.

The experience in group was intense – I spend Friday mostly in bed, recovering, and Saturday I was still shaky.

  1. It seems to me like your parents just don’t want to connect with you (maybe anyone) beyond a very superficial level. Maybe they are just very self-absorbed. Maybe they have no idea and no desire how to connect with feelings (theirs or anyone else’s). It seems to go well beyond particular topics that they don’t like or aren’t allowed. But some people (and families) have rules about what topics of conversation are allowed–you know, acceptable people only talk about x, y, and z. They only talk about food and the garden and the weather. Or only about beer, parties, and sports. I think my family only talked about God and people in our church. It was horrendously boring to be around them. But that’s what they saw as being acceptable behavior within their very narrow views of that. It was kind of like the idea that decent women don’t wear low-cut shirts or good men are breadwinners. That was part of their rules about how to be a person. So maybe your family has rules about how to be a person that involve acceptable topics of conversation. Just some thoughts.

    And I am a little appalled at Ron. Yes, if you felt yourself to be a tiny child, you dissociated. Not because of the feedback, but to be within the memory. Somehow, you have to learn how to stay in the room but also experience the memory. You have to learn a kind of half-here, half-there way of being to process the memories. But I don’t know how you will learn it from Ron. Take care and good luck. It is a good thing that group was a safe place to have a memory.

    Just some thoughts.

    • Ellen said:

      My family does seem to have rules like that and I’m just learning to notice what they are. They especially shy away from any hint of emotion – maybe it makes them uncomfortable.

      I wonder if Ron really clued into what was happening. It’s hard for me to know what I looked like or how it seemed to others. I do feel let down when he doesn’t understand though. It was an OK experience until the end when it seemed I wasn’t acting the way the group / Ron thought I should. I know there are no ‘shoulds’, just opportunities for insight, but I wasn’t up for the insight at that point.

      Thanks for sharing your experience Ashana.

  2. I know that when I have strongly engaged with a memory and whatever dissociative part that is associated with that memory, I can find it very difficult to answer even simple questions about what I think or how I am doing. I generally have to keep on engaging in the here and now and then 10 minutes or so later, when I am solidly in the room, I might be able to answer the questions. So I feel frustrated that you were judged for not being able to engage normally with others while you were in a dissociative state. My, gracious, I hope that Ron was prepared to deal with just about anything possibly coming up in reaction to your listening to what the others had to say. The most unexpected thing might have triggered you.

    Sending thoughts of quiet and comfort…

    • Ellen said:

      Yes, I’d need at least ten minutes, sometimes half an hour. I feel frustrated also. I know Ron means well, and doesn’t mean to hurt, but still. Thanks Cat.

  3. Hi Ellen! How is little Ellen lately? Haven’t heard from her in a while… πŸ™‚

    Anyhow, reading what you said about your parents/family, I think it sounds VERY strange. They are cold and distant and altogether uptight, but beyond normal. I can get the feeling of this very icy calm politeness and then beneath it, a darkness that is unsettling.

    For everyone to act like it is just “normal” to never connect on a deeper level or talk about feelings or maybe something bad or annoying that happened to you–it is really disturbing.

    It would feel like you don’t exist, because actually they are asking you to stop appearing as yourself. They are telling you, in effect, that being yourself is simply not acceptable or tolerated. You will be ignored, ostracized and dismissed. Frozen out entirely.

    What a brutal kind of existence to grow up in. Absolutely stunning.

    That you question it so much is sad, because it tells me you’ve never had someone to share your experience with, to say to you, “Yeah, your family is nuts.” Or perhaps, a sibling to commiserate with you and say, “Yeah, our family is crazy.”

    With my family, I didn’t have anyone growing up to tell me that, but now I have my wife. She’s met them all and helped me to recognize that my family was incredibly dysfunctional and bizarre. And since then, we’ve now run into someone else, a distant relative looking after my niece–and she also is aware of how problematic my brother and his wife are.

    It’s been helpful to find that commonality. But even if you don’t have that right now, you should know that just by reading your blog I can see that your family has very severe dysfunction and that you are probably the healthiest thing about it.

    Please don’t doubt yourself, allow yourself to be YOU. You are good enough, and you deserve happiness.



    • Ellen said:

      I’ve been mulling over your perspective Aaron and I appreciate it. I wonder if I leave out things – good things about them, bad things about me, so to speak, and so it all seems slanted. Outside validation by someone who knows my family IRL would be great. If either of my siblings validated any part of this, it would make such a difference. To be fair, I haven’t tried to talk to them alone about the family dynamics. They seem to play their parts so devotedly, I haven’t wanted to, plus I didn’t have the words. But now I’m gaining more distance, so perhaps I might try.

      I’m very glad you found such support from your wife. And the relative. Good to hear.

      Hi Aaron, I’m OK but I’m cold there is no sun right now. I have a dog he is a toy though his name is Arnold. How is your dog because you have a dog. Your friend Ellen

      • Hi Ellen, I don’t think you are slanting your version of your family. I think that they sound very, very cold and strange and I highly doubt any of that is your fault.

        Little Ellen, I have two dogs now! They are both labradoodles (this means part labrador and part poodle) but one is rather big and one is rather small. I pet them and give them lots of toys and love!

        I hope you are also giving your dog (toy) love!


        • Ellen said:

          Hi Aaron, you are so lucky. To have two dogs. So they won’t get lonely either because they can talk to each other. Bark I mean. I would like to see what a labradoodle is like. I know I like poodles. I carry my dog around but he gets squished sometimes. Your friend Ellen

  4. Hi Ellen, and little Ellen, and hello to Arnold, too.

    This comment is for big Ellen. I wonder if even in our dissociated states we can ask for and be open to receiving comfort too… and if you can maybe stay in that place (as disorienting and frightening as it is) a little longer and see if you can let the group or Ron reach you with kindness in words or actions, or even say “can someone help me”…. I really liked that someone said that they wanted to hug little you. When I fall into a scary flashback, which happened just the other night with that scary thunderstorm, S. tried to comfort me in the age/place that I was, rather than waiting until I “grew up” in a sense… I didn’t have to analyze or try to understand from an “adult” frame of mind. Like you I can’t do the “processing” stuff right then and there. As Sharon says, I am in full-on shock, so I need a warm blanket, a cup of sweet tea, a couple of ginger-snaps. Analysis can happen later.

    PS I’m cold, too! Under the duvet with big wooly socks on


    • Ellen said:

      I’m glad S was able to comfort you.

      Staying in that kid place longer is a thought. I tend to want to switch out of it as fast as possible, yet I’m realizing I don’t have to do that, I could stay there longer. It’s very new to me to go to those hurt places with other people there. In this case, I ended up half back in the past, but half in the present, but not in a good way, more blank and dissociated.

      I don’t know the people in the group that well, and don’t trust them as you do S. When the person said she wanted to hold me, I was kind of shocked, because for one thing we’ve barely ever spoken. From the kid’s point of view, we don’t know her at all. So it was complicated. Actually the whole thing was more complicated than what I wrote.

      Thanks for understanding about the shocked feeling. That’s it exactly. Stay warm! I felt better today as soon as I went and put on long pants and socks. πŸ™‚

  5. Gel said:

    I try to see people who seem to not want to really hear (me or each other), as being stuck or unready to be real. Almost like they are sick. Rather than seeing them as intending to hurt me. I know I have times when I’m too overwhelmed to be open to other people myself.

    I think a lot of families are groupings of people that share blood but miss the connection on other levels. It seems like it’s just better to look for your real family elsewhere. My husbands family all get together numerous times of year to celebrate birthdays and holidays. I am welcome but feel odd in a benign way. They all stick to certain subjects like gardening, the children, and cooking. And there is always food. It all feels so weird to me, because of the other topics that never come up, like religion and politics and any kind of edgy stuff….I used to think they didn’t really seem close. But they are genuinely kind people. It almost seems like a kind of respect to not talk about religion etc….since my husband and I definitely fall into a very different world view then they do. And anyway, I don’t think I’d go if they were confrontative, or intimate, even if it was more real. Now I just see it as people who are related by circumstance, who get together to share what they actually do share and leave it at that.

    As for Ron….Geesh, I just don’t get him as a therapist. It seems like you go to him for help with stuff you struggle with and you get even more weirdness on top of it by how he ‘works’…(I was going to write, “how he treats you”. But I think he has good intentions. I just don’t see how at least half of his responses that you share seem almost the opposite of what I’d call helpful). Only thing is I also believe in you and your soul keeps going to him so there must be something there for you and your growth. Things or usually more complex then they seem. And I don’t want this to be unsupportive of you.

    • Ellen said:

      I guess with my family, there is so much history there, that I can’t take their safe subject preferences as benign.

      I love Ron actually. Not with a capital L, but still. He is a kind, caring person who puts up with a lot of crap from me, and often goes the extra mile. So you’re right about my ‘soul’. I think in these posts, I tend to focus on what goes wrong and often leave what goes right alone, so it gives a bad impression.

      The other thing about the group is it is so mixed. It’s not focused on trauma, so most there do not understand dissociation, let alone parts, or memories coming back. So there’s not a shared understanding that we can really work from, and I think that makes it hard.

      Thanks for telling me your opinion Gel.

  6. Ruth said:

    Thanks Ellen for sharing the ideas about veggies. I am working on soothing my stomach problems and this might be just the ticket. How you describe your family sounds a lot like mine, surface, don’t make waves, don’t look past the plastic masks, don’t talk about anything vital or real. Feeling shut out is how I feel and it translates to feeling unheard and unloved. A different perspective on Ron was he wasn’t criticizing you but in the moment pointing out how your behavior is coming across to others. I suspect your family dynamics taught you this is criticism. If you put Ron’s behavior with the idea that he wants to help you feel connected, he was trying to help you. I know with my counselor I often interpreted his behavior as negative when the opposite was true. You might not have been able to answer him at the time but coming back later to express your reaction is ok. Reconnecting to people and emotions is a tricky business. Staying in the parts when you are now aware of them is difficult. I always felt like I was some how loosing control of my life when parts take over. It was hard for me to grasp that the parts are me too. You are doing awesome. One thing you might want to consider is at the beginning of next group thank them for reaching out to you last week. This is a process and you are doing amazingly well. Hugs to you and little Ellen.

    • Ellen said:

      Hope the veggies help. I’m also chewing deglycerized licorice, DGL, tablets 20 minutes before meals. That really helps, plus they’re very inexpensive at the health food store. They stimulate the stomach lining to produce secretions or enzymes or something.

      Interesting about our families.

      I know Ron was trying to help me. He always is. Just I needed him to understand something he didn’t understand and it upset me. We’ve talked about it now and I feel better.

      I totally feel I am losing control when parts take over – I don’t know what they’ll say. It’s disorienting.

      Thank you Ruth. Hugs.

      • i know what you mean about not knowing what they will say. when i had a full-on flashback a little while ago, when S and i were first dating, i started crying hysterically and told him that “i wish i was a baked potato with wings so that i can fly away….” i can laugh about it now… but at the time i was truly desperate to be a baked potato. πŸ™‚

        • Ellen said:

          lol. I must admit I have never wished to be a baked potato. But…younger parts have fantastic ideas sometimes.

      • Ruth said:

        I am glad you talked about it and feel better now.

  7. I find my parents are similar – they don’t talk about feelings and they don’t respond when I do either. Like you say, it makes me feel unreal, like a ghost. I’ve never heard anyone else say this before. It makes me feel less alone.

    It’s so awkward when therapists misinterpret thing and you’re not in a position to correct them. That can be very frustrating, I sympathise.

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