Strange feelings

I don’t like therapy much today. My session yesterday has left me unable to function. And I have things I need to take care of before starting work tomorrow.

There must be a better way. Different parts of myself end up coming forward with very confused stories. I end up overwhelmed. I don’t think I’m supposed to get re-traumatized in order to get better.

So I have some strange memories from the past, mostly sorrow and pain without a story to go along with them. The pictures that accompany the feelings don’t explain the feelings at all.

And I feel pretty disconnected from Ron. I know he is there when I’m in a session. But he doesn’t say much. And mostly I talk, or feel, or whatever I do. I just am missing his presence. Sometimes, having him there made things easier to bear, as if he was helping me with it all. This time, I just feel alone with it.

It seems my parents basically abandoned me emotionally. My father was critical and harsh, and my mother would pretend nothing was wrong. I ended up having to bear everything myself – nothing was ever acknowledged. And some very early trauma from another relative was added into the mix, which no one ever helped me with either. So everything kind of knocked against everything else, and I split it all off in order to be able to grow up. And parts of me had to stay behind, frozen in time.

We don’t discuss this in so many words in therapy. This is just what is emerging and what I’m trying to piece together. My sense that Ron doesn’t care and isn’t involved could be my mind replaying the scenario with my parents. Whatever. I still have to deal with those feelings in the present.

I believe in general, Ron is a caring and dedicated therapist. So I guess, if I’m seeing him as uncaring, it’s likely to be my issues.

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14 comments
  1. I admire your courage and willingness to stick with it when it doesn’t make sense. That’s a true sign of recovery in my book

    • Ellen said:

      Thanks for the kind words shoe1000. They came just at the right time.

  2. Ashana M said:

    I’m sorry this is such a difficult day for you. i have two thoughts about what you wrote. One of them is that when a lot is getting brought out in your sessions and later it’s too much, then maybe you need more tools for coping with the overwhelming feelings. The grounding techniques you shared earlier are the kind of thing I am thinking. For years, I worked at using mindfulness to be able to bear what was happening inside and go on functioning. Ron isn’t into this kind of thing, but you can do this on your own–just find different strategies that help you. You aren’t going to be fine after sessions until the trauma is more resolved, but maybe you can get through the day a little better. The support of the therapist helps while he’s sitting there. Later, you need other strategies. It really is not easy to do this.

    My second thought is that there’s a detachment that psychodynamic therapy relies on as a working mode for the therapist that can come across as being uncaring or lacking in empathy. It’s supposed to communicate non-judgementalness and leave space for the patient to come to her own conclusions about the meaning of things, but when you’ve been alone with trauma for so long it can feel like once again you are alone with your suffering. I also think some therapists distance themselves from the intense emotional pain of their clients in order to keep from getting burned out themselves. It is really, really difficult to enter into someone else’s pain, experience it along with that person, and go on with ordinary life day after day. So, I think you’re right that he does care, but there are also things he does that make him seem at a distance or not involved. I think I’ve only ever had one therapist who seemed to be there along with me in 20 or so years of therapy. It is just very difficult to do and I honestly think not all therapists can do it. I think you are right about both perceptions: he does care and you are somewhat alone with this. The aloneness is a part of the pain that has to be acknowledged.

    • Ellen said:

      Coping tools is a good idea. Sometimes nothing much works, but other times, they’re great. Yeah, it’s not easy. At all.

      What you say about detachment makes sense. Sometimes I feel Ron’s presence very strongly, and it helps a lot, but at other times, he seems so distant. I think Ron has the ability to accompany, but maybe he isn’t always up to it, or something. I agree most therapists cannot do this – most that I’ve seen can’t.

      Thanks for the thoughtful comment Ashana. Hope your health continues to improve.

  3. Ashana M has a couple of good ideas. Your analysis seems sound. I’ll kind of answer your questions about being retraumatized. What I learned from observing others and my own experience is consolidated to there is a difference between reenacting the trauma and remembering past experiences and feeling buried emotions. A woman I knew had a counselor that had her reenact her brutal rape with him laying on top of her and pinning her to the floor. The woman told me of her experience and reliving the horror all over again. I felt sick at the thought of someone doing that to me. However, as I started remembering my counselor sat there with me while I felt the pain as I remembered past experiences. He explained that a medical doctor may have to reopen a healed wound that is infected to clean out the damaged tissue. It is painful. To me, your description of what Ron is doing is the second style. He is sitting with you as you remember your painful past. He isn’t adding to your trauma by his actions. He is allowing you to feel what you felt. My counselor encouraged me that if I lived through it, I can remember and survive. We did get to the point where I remembered enough that I understood where my emotions came from. My counselor reassured me that I didn’t need to remember every second of the brutal treatment I received. I think an attribute of a good counselor is to sit with you while you feel your pain. It is hard. Being flooded by memories of past unhealed pain is an isolating feeling. I would focus on the presence of my counselor and recognize that I was expected to do it alone even when I felt alone. This part of remembering is hard. The reason your mind cut off the memory in the first place is because it was painful. Take care and know that you are not alone on this journey to healing.

    • Cat said:

      I do believe we need to open those wounds but OMG your friends experience sounds horrendous.

    • Ellen said:

      Your friend’s experience does sound awful, and Ron definitely never does any such things. So in that way, therapy is never re-traumatizing. Sometimes I wonder though, if it has to be quite so hard. But from your story and others, it seems it just is very hard. Thanks for sharing your wisdom Ruth.

  4. Cat said:

    I can also feel a little despondent after therapy, often without understanding any particular reason. I used to struggle with the Therapists silence, while understanding their motives. Interesting what you say about projecting your experience with parents onto Ron. I have often experienced similar during therapy sessions.

    • Ellen said:

      Good to hear you can relate also Cat.

  5. Gel said:

    Could you ask Ron to reflect back to you after you’ve shared stuff with him?

    What I mean is asking if he could say back to you what he hears is important to you. Not just analyze or interpret or fix….In Non violent communication what I’ve learned, is that kind of reflecting back is a valuable part of the process. The person listening doesn’t have to do any fixing or figuring out….it’s about listening intently with the intention of understanding that is helpful . I know when I’ve asked for that reflection from my husband it is especially helpful to hear what he hears from me and I feel less alone. Even when he doesn’t understand or get it, just that he’s trying to understand is HUGE. I might have to try explaining again, but it feels so good that he’s listening and wanting to understand.

    The other thing I like about this (giving/receiving empathy) is that it’s still my process and responsibility for my stuff. I just don’t feel so alone. I don’t want someone to fix me. I want a friend to stand beside me and hear and understand me. It seems like you are wanting something like that (?)

    The topic of retraumitization….would like to go into that more. What is the difference between “going through” the old trauma so that you get the pain released and can grow and move forward….and just having a trauma restiimulated over and over and never healing….hmmm.

    Good to hear from you.
    xxoo

    • Ellen said:

      Yes, I could ask him to reflect sometimes. As it’s his profession, he’s not going to take a lot of input from me, I don’t think, as to how I’d like him to respond. He’s worked out his way. But I’m sure if I ask, at a certain point, he’d probably do that. I have felt that also, that need to be heard and reflected back.

      I’m not sure exactly what I want – it’s something I’ve sometimes felt from Ron, and other times not. The feeling that he is with me somehow. It’s not something I can ask for in so many words. It’s more like a gift.

      Yeah, re-traumatization is a puzzle. The hope is that opening this stuff up helps. But what if it doesn’t make any difference – then it’s suffering for nothing.

      Thanks Gel

  6. Neloran said:

    I get that, too. I call the inability to function “the fallout.”

    I know it’s confusing. Sometimes you get back a picture, other times a word, and other times some affect. Having parts with all these different perspectives and holding different pieces can be very overwhelming!

    I know this is going to sound basic…but do you do daily meetings?

    It sounds like your feelings toward Ron have every bit to do with the trauma (emotionally unavailable parents is also traumatic). Since there is all this overwhelming information popping in and out of your consciousness, it can be even more overwhelming to connect to it! And Ron, being an authority figure (adult male), may be all it takes for some of the parts to distance and shut down. That’s sort of why I wondered about daily meetings. There may be a need to bring some folks “on board” with therapy, oriented to 2014, or given time to get used to Ron.

    Anyway, those are just my thoughts from my personal experience. Hang in there!

    -Nel

    • Ellen said:

      It is so confusing, thanks.

      I’ve started checking in with the two parts I know best, sometimes mornings and evenings. Not meetings per se. I don’t have the DID that you have – it’s less severe, so I don’t have time loss or any of those types of problems. I have read about internal meetings in books about DID. I think my check ins are the same kind of thing perhaps.

      Thanks for commenting Nel.

      • Neloran said:

        You are welcome! Everyone with severe dissociation is different. Even those with the DID diagnosis are going to be different from system to system. So, you gotta find what works for you! ❤

        -Nel

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