Therapy Thursday – the sounds of silence

Last Thursday I arrived at therapy after work, feeling completely done in. One of my main problems is fatigue – I get worn out so fast.

I’d been looking forward to seeing Ron, earlier in the week. But now I was in session, I had nothing much to say. I felt these waves of exhaustion, and the thought of launching into almost any topic was not appealing.

I told Ron I’d had an extremely rough time after the last session. We didn’t talk about it much though.

I actually think we should have been talking about it. I don’t think it’s enough to plunge into dark feelings, then finally climb back out. I need to make sense of what this means by talking about it. But I lack the energy to say this – maybe I don’t even think it at the time.

I feel critical of Ron again, but can’t bring myself to quit therapy just yet. It’s been five years, and my PTSD really hasn’t improved. My ability to relate to people more normally has improved a lot though, which I mostly see through working. I used to antagonize people without even trying, and I’d go into fits of rage, though not usually vented on the person. Plus I used to have anxiety almost all the time, even if I couldn’t feel it, and that’s still there, but also better. I can feel it now, which means I can do something about it at times.

Ron is good at providing a holding environment. He is not afraid of my emotions, and encourages all of them. I obviously never had that as a child, and it’s a really great thing.

I just wish he also had a theory of PTSD. Now lots of people have a theory, but don’t have the emotional skills that he has. But if he had a theory, he’d have some idea of how to help me. Instead of triggering trauma off, sending me home to get over it, and doing the same thing all over again the next week. I’m spending so much time overwhelmed and unable to function.

I’m through with doing that, I really am. I need some way of tackling PTSD problems that doesn’t make things worse. And it’s not that Ron is against anything I want to try. Just he doesn’t have a theory, so he forgets everything again the next session.

I need to be able to bear the emotions. Once I’m overwhelmed, or stuck in a child space, I can’t bear them, and I implode – freeze, numb out, stop coping. I suspect I am stuck in a child space a fair amount of the time, and that’s why I have such difficulty with household tasks and following through with my plans. I think I need help staying adult, or relating to younger parts from an adult perspective.

And Ron’s interest is in helping clients experience their emotions, and supporting them while they go through them. Which is a fine goal. Just I need help containing my emotions. Yes, a fair wack of them are locked away, but that’s because they need to be for now.

At my session, I didn’t say all this. I did say the PTSD hadn’t gotten better. Ron asked if therapy was the only reason I go through the emotions, and the only time I get overwhelmed. I said no….and that I realize I’m not picking this stuff up in therapy. But later, I thought, yes, there is no other thing I do that triggers the overwhelm like therapy.

So we sat a lot. Ron said something about do I want to discuss this or that….and I felt a huge fatigue and said why bother? Well – to get a sense of connection, perhaps, Ron said.

Whatever.

Ron suggested I draw the parts, so I did that. Basically stick figures. There are three main parts I’m aware of.

I did end up saying maybe the not talking is a parts problem. That has happened in the past – I go past the wall of not wanting to speak, and parts have a lot to say. However, that led to overwhelm in the past, and I just didn’t want to go back there.

So we sat some more. And then I left.

I was wondering if I’d be upset with myself for not speaking about much of anything, whether I’d kick myself for the lost opportunity. But I haven’t really. The not wanting to speak was so strong, it kind of felt like being true to myself to let it win.

And I’m not overwhelmed with trauma today, though I am very tired, I think just from working all week. I was OK at work Friday. If we’d touched on anything deep in therapy, that day would have been torture for me.

Maybe I’m getting ready to leave therapy, I’m not sure. However I still like Ron as much as ever. I think I got something out of just sitting there with him, him trying to understand even though I wasn’t talking. It still felt kind of supportive. I am paying out of pocket though, so if I stop talking in my sessions, I’m not sure how much sense it makes to keep going.

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24 comments
  1. Sirena said:

    yeah, it sounds like you need something more dynamic and pro-active than what Ron is providing. Maybe now you’re ready for that in a way you weren’t before? I hope you seek out a new therapist rather than just leave therapy.

    • Ellen said:

      Maybe. Not sure how to find the right person though. Thanks Sirena

  2. It’s really hard to be so exhausted so much of the time. And it’s depressing. I have more energy now–although I too spend a lot of time when I can doing nothing in particular, it’s just I have made it a conscious choice–but there were so many years when the fatigue was just grinding. There’s something about that kind of fatigue that makes a lot of things feel like, “Why bother?” Why make dinner so that I can fuel my body into wading slowly through the next unpleasant task? Why keep breathing just so I can feel tired? I completely understand about not talking. I have days like that too, where speaking just seems like too much effort. It may be that fatigue never feels like an “emotion” that needs to be discussed, but it does. It’s your daily, nearly hourly experience. It’s what it feels like to be you a lot of the time. You have to get through life. You have to keep moving. And you are so, so tired that it feels almost impossible to do it. I think this is something you keep trying to tell Ron–that this is how it feels to be you a lot of the time–and it’s like it never quite gets communicated. Of course, you want suggestions and solutions to it, but I also think you need to have someone care enough to try to understand how it feels to be like this. It’s really, really hard.

    Just to share a suggestion, when things get overwhelming for me, I see my adult self as mostly in charge of soothing. So, while I need to eat and wear clothes and get to work, the main thing my adult self needs to do in times of crisis is remember what gets me “warm” again and then make my body do it. It’s the adult who recognizes I am overwhelmed, tells my thoughts to shut up, and says put a jacket on, get a hot water bottle, put some nice music on, get a coffee and just makes me sit there doing things that help me calm down until my brain kind of gets unstuck again. It’s also the adult who sees I am in a state and starts striking things off the to-do list until I am down to the absolutely bare essentials. (Trying to wade through mud while doing laundry that can wait until tomorrow just makes me more panicky about being in a state.) It didn’t used to be the adult who did this–it was all the child parts, maybe because the adult was too caught up in the idea of trying to maintain some degree of normalcy.

    • Ellen said:

      For me, the fatigue kicks in especially once the work day is over, and on weekends. Mostly, though sometimes it bleeds over into work also. It is just so draining. Maybe it is like an emotion – I never thought of that actually. Ron has asked if there are things I don’t find draining, but I have a hard time coming up with much. I don’t think it’s what I’m doing – it’s more my state of being. One thing about Ron – he does have respect for whatever I’m going through. So even with me not feeling able to speak much, he was willing to sit there with that for a while, and I felt that he was there. It makes a difference.

      I really like how you describe your adult taking charge – it sounds so helpful. I need to try and keep that in mind as a possibility – that the adult is not necessarily a bully, but can be caring and nurturing also. I really get the adult trying to keep up a good front – yep. That’s what I do. It’s necessary out in the world, but I was even doing that at home, when by myself, which is so silly. I think this adult child shifting is something that is going to help.

      Thanks Ash

    • I think that Ashana’s suggestions are good ones. I know that when I can get my adult to be a care taker in that way, it helps a great deal. There are times when I just can’t find my adult, though. Having lists around of things to do can help, because I often can’t remember what is almost certain to help some. If I am deeply enough stuck in a distressed part, and can’t get myself out on my own, that’s when I’m supposed to call my therapist, because talking with her usually at least begins the process of activating my adult.

      That can all help with the distress, but this trauma recovery process is exhausting in general. Unfortunately.

      • Ellen said:

        Lists might help, though when I’m distressed, I can’t really do anything it seems like. I like how you have a threshold for calling your T, one that’s easy to remember.

        Thanks Cat

    • The warmth. I don’t know why but it’s huge for me too. I’ve been making really hot tea in my glass water bottle that I carry. Just for the warmth. I keep my car at 85 degrees. I sleep oth my fuzzy heating pad on high. I love heated yoga and I spend savasana in child’s pose underneath my blanket. I have those soft fuzzy jackets and my little girl just needs to be warm.

      • Ellen said:

        I tend to drink tea ll day long also. And I don’t like being cold. 🙂

  3. Your little girl sounds so confused. She is lost and alone at times. I can just so relate to you at times and I wish I had the answer. Mostly it seems as if your little girl needs comfort. She needs a T that believes she exists and knows when she is there. My T somehow draws my 5 year old out. She somehow knows when she is present even when I’m not aware. It makes it okay. And I’m not crazy. It’s so healing and all I do now is cry. She is so sad. Maybe that’s not helpful but I just needed to share. And my little girl says she loves you ❤

    • Ellen said:

      I’m not sure it’s a part, though parts do carry a lot of emotions. I suppose the parts do need comfort, and it’s my job to provide that if I can. Ron does believe in them, for sure. Sometimes it really helps to let those parts of me just speak, but other times it’s just too overwhelming. I’m glad you are finding ways to work with the girl.

      From B: I like you too – can you come over??? Your friend B.

      Thanks AG.

      • So why does it feel overwhelming! I mean I get it but that’s what therapy is for right? I used to be scared to death of falling apart in session and then not being able to pull myself back together. I’ve now fallen apart and all the terrible stuff is forefront in my mind. My 5 year old and my 14 year old are out in full force. And the emotion is so terribly raw. It’s like I’m there but not. And somehow the hour comes to an end and whoever was feeling is able to go back and I can come back. Maybe everyone is just more settled because they are heard. I thought it would be terrible awful to have all this emotion but really it’s somehow relieving. I can breathe.
        And yes, I can come over. Email me anytime and we can send pictures and write and enjoy each other’s company. She would like that.

        • Ellen said:

          What’s happening for you sounds really good AG. If only that were the case for me. A part will start talking, and sometimes things get messy and emotional, and sometimes not. I don’t care – I mean, I’m OK with whatever happens in session. The problem for me is it doesn’t pack up again. If anything, I feel worse at home. The feelings snowball, get worse and worse. I can’t function for a few days. Then finally, I can put it behind me. Oops, time for another session, where the same things happen to me again. This PTSD problem is not getting better for me, and it’s been years with this method. Like you though, there can be a feeling of relief at the time, of being heard.

          If I go to a yoga class, I end up dissociated – numbed out, then I fall asleep, then I wake up so depressed I feel I can’t cope.

          Maybe because I coped using such severe dissociation, it’s like that for me…I really don’t know. It’s not because I don’t trust Ron or anything like that.

          Thanks for asking. Cheers

  4. Rachel said:

    There are ways to manage the emotions. And certain trauma therapists/specialists can teach them to you. Therapy, particular to trauma, needs to be more comprehensive than an accepting presence. In my opinion and experience. Those services are absolutely out there.

    • Ellen said:

      Yeah. The thought of leaving Ron just overwhelms me with sadness though. And he is maybe my seventh therapist, and he has been the best. I had one woman who said she specialized in trauma whom I just disliked. And the feeling was likely mutual. I’m not nice to therapists like you are Rachel. Your idea of standing up to a T and being angry is nothing like what I do. I attack. I need someone who is able to not take that personally, and Ron fits the bill.

      But the trauma stuff – it’s true, I have not found a way of working with it that seems helpful with Ron.

      But I think you’ll understand how rough it is to leave a T you are attached to. My mind may say leave, but my emotions do not wish to follow. It may take me a while to figure this out. Thanks Rachel.

      • Rachel said:

        Of course I understand! It is heartbreaking, really. You are attached to him and he has been so helpful and caring. Which you were sorely lacking in your upbringing. I don’t think there is a right decision and I don’t think that any decision is permanent, either. Ron isn’t going anywhere. He will always be there. And you don’t have to leave him. All in your time.

  5. Cat said:

    I’ve experienced something similar with Paul a couple of times – not wanting to speak, but comfortable enough to sit through it. They turned out to be some of the most powerful, but I’m not sure why.

    I tried to talk to Paul about PTSD from the attack, but he has a similar approach to Ron. This became a sticking point in our relationship, but we never had the chance to process the feelings because he went off sick again and I haven’t seen him since!

    There’s so much positive about Ron and I think he probably helps you to deal with the effects of trauma on the present moment. If you went to another Therapist, would you not feel just as overwhelmed? It’s easier for me to say because my therapy held time limitation and I would need to look for trauma therapy, anyway. It’s difficult to give up something for the unknown. Hope you have a good week

    • Ellen said:

      Yeah, I don’t really feel it was a wasted session, even though there wasn’t that much talking. If I’d faked it, it would have been a wasted session.

      It is really too bad about Paul’s bad health!

      That’s the thing. If I went to another T, would it be any better? It may be that this stuff is very bad to feel, no matter what. Thanks for the comment Cat. Hope you are well.

  6. e.Nice said:

    perhaps you can just do some comparison studies? Try out a couple of therapists but keep seeing Ron every other time? That would feel pretty exhausting and overwhelming.

    • Ellen said:

      Yeah, I should. But probably won’t at this point. Thanks Nice

  7. Ashana M said:

    I had this other thought about not talking much, which is that usually the specific words are not that important. It’s the connection and also what is happening inside you in terms of feeling and processing things. It can be really hard to keep up with the pace of constantly generating words or listening to them and understanding them. Periods of silence can slow things down a lot so that something can happen inside of you too.

    • Ellen said:

      I think that’s really true, and it’s one of Ron’s strengths that he leaves a lot of room for silence in which internal stuff can happen. In this particular session though, I think I was just so shut down, not a whole lot was happening internally. Thanks Ash

  8. sometimes, there just arent words for what we are feeling. it does make sense if your overwhelmed a lot that you’d get choked up and be unable to speak. seeing ron while interviewing other t’s might be a good route to go down. X

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