In the kitchen

Black dots are in the air

I breathe, I choke

I ask the contractor to do something

He gives me a small plastic bottle, that yellow see-through kind with a white lid, with pills

I want to eat something but the black bits are choking me

Millions of moths

Moth corpses start piling up on the floor

I go to tell my mother – she’s in her room at the back of the house with a young child

I ask her to follow me – look, I say

You can see the insects in the air here too. Shimmering, they drip down sap

We stop in the hall to look at pretty pictures

My mother says

She’ll come later

She needs to go out

I try to persuade her it’s important about the moths, though maybe I’ve forgotten what is important, what is dangerous, why she must come

She leaves

She doesn’t come to the kitchen


So it’s maybe a case of too much therapy. I’ve been barely functional this weekend. Darn. I have so much to do. With working, I don’t do much on weekdays, leaving everything for the weekend. If I don’t do chores on weekends, and cook, nothing gets done at all.

I told Ron my tale about work, and how I’d realized that it triggers my feelings of childhood, when my father stopped speaking to me. So he was very interested in that. Then a particular part that carries a lot of those feelings, V, came forward to speak to him. She’s older than some of the kid parts so she can have more complex conversations, sometimes. Not that we did though this time. She is so very sad and so very depressed and wants to die, and it’s hard. It was hard allowing her to be there for any length of time, because then I get swamped with those feelings also.

Ron never does much to get me out of these states. He’s trying to allow the part room. After a bit, V asked him what she should do to feel better, because he was supposed to help people feel better. He asked her what do you need me to do? V didn’t know. Then she said ‘talk to me I guess’. ‘What would you like me to talk about?’ V is so sad, she can barely speak, and she doesn’t know what she wants him to talk about. Ron says something about how he understands how sad she is, and how it makes a lot of sense she feels like that. V just sits there, miserable.

Ron goes back to how extreme he feels the situation in my family was, how he couldn’t deliberately not talk to one of his kids for two minutes, let alone years. He’s said this a few times before. We talk about how I argued with my father a lot, being a young teen, and how that triggered off the silent treatment. How my father was the complete boss of the family, and everything was all about him. How my mother never had a dissenting opinion, or wants of her own, that in any way conflicted with his. How difficult I still find it to comprehend that – how she could subordinate herself to such an extent.

So the rest of the weekend, I have this ‘I want to die’ voice going on, though she doesn’t take over entirely. It’s very hard to deal with.

Then I saw my trainer yesterday. I guess it was too much exercise, though it felt OK at the time. I’d asked her to go slow and she did. Just exercise brings up trauma, so today I’ve got that going on too.

So not a good weekend. I feel kind of frantic that I’m not getting anything much done. I at least need to cook. Sometimes it’s all about survival. That is all there is energy for. I’m going to ask if we can go more slowly in therapy, so I don’t stop functioning entirely, like this weekend. I’ve got to hang on to some hope somehow.

This is a difficult evening. I feel so alone and so down. I’m ‘recovering’ from a nap. The naps seems like such a good idea, but they plunge me into despair.

Today I went for a very long walk with a friend and her visitor. The visitor was very friendly and nice. She’s from another country, and knows German better than English, so we talked German a fair bit. I enjoy talking my old native language sometimes.

However, of course we walked much too far for me. It was enjoyable though, and we finished at the special hot chocolate place, where the hot chocolate is thick and spicy with chili. Yum.

Oh, I wish I didn’t have this ‘disability’. This thing that makes me exhausted, needing sleep after a city walk. That makes me wake up thinking about death. That stops me from cooking, from finishing my laundry. Where I wonder vaguely about help lines, about writing to my therapist. Because I feel I can’t survive this. Whatever this is.

Or if I take a bunch of xanax, will it give me a rest, and I can wake tomorrow feeling normal?

I don’t want this, this pain that comes from nowhere. That i don’t know what it is about. I was mistreated? OK. So were lots of people. I wasn’t beaten and locked into a closet. It was a matter of looks, of being lesser, of silences, of small put downs. Where it left off outside, I continued it faithfully on the inside.

That’s the problem, isn’t it. Yes, it happened out there, when we were small. But then, we take in the damage, and we perpetuate it ourselves. No one has to do anything to us anymore – we carry on ourselves, like little wind-up toys.

That’s why this job feels unbearable. Not the few interactions with the boss that feel belittling, damaging. It’s that I swallow the boss, to keep up the belittling for ever. In some way, I agree with him, I’m no good, I will never measure up. If I didn’t agree, it wouldn’t hurt so intensely. It wouldn’t haunt my time off, my weekends and evenings. Or the times I am working quietly, with no one to disturb me.

I cannot set it aside. The awfulness of the job is in my bones and muscles, so I cannot relax.

This darkness though, feels deeper still. As if I am very small and lost. I don’t understand what I’ve done wrong, why I must stay in the dark like this.

I dream of a tiny fairy child, riding back and forth, back and forth on her tiny tricycle. She becomes invisible, and I watch just the tricycle going back and forth. I try to catch the tiny fluttering child in my hands, so I can calm and soothe her, but she eludes my grasp. Another child is there also, with red-blonde hair. She also walks back and forth, crying. I want to help, but don’t know what to do.

mirror-reflections-joe-amenechi-a4184I’ve got work troubles once again. I’m not sure how much is just in my mind and how much is real. When I describe it, likely it won’t seem like much. However I have no one to talk it over with and it’s sent my mood plummeting. I have been feeling completely worthless and at fault. I wrote it out and sent it to Ron in the middle of last night, but I think he’s away for March Break. In any case, he didn’t respond.

There is a part of myself which is a kind of attacker part. When I’m feeling threatened, that part can come out and wreck havoc on my life. That’s kind of what happened to me last week at work. The last time this happened for me was in group therapy, and it really wrecked my relationships with fellow group members. And when that happens, I feel worthless.

At work, it wasn’t as bad as in group. At least, nothing I said was personal – it was all about the work issue.

It’s kind of about my role there. I’m a contractor, and I meet with ‘experts’ in the subject matter I’m writing about – managers there who’ve got a lot of product knowledge. So I’m tacitly expected to take a subordinate role, be fairly quiet and accommodating, letting others speak. You’d think that would suit my personality – I’m fairly quiet and introverted. Nope. After four years there, I’m feeling self-confident about what I know. When it comes to work, I like to engage and discuss.

Well, that’s me. It’s OK when everything is calm.

Last week was difficult for me. I had a really tough weekend recovering from therapy. I’d had a new deadline shoved in my face without consultation. And I had a medical appointment on Monday to discover the results of my cancer follow up scan.

The scan was great, and I’m happy about that. The appointment was difficult though, a long wait in a crowded waiting room, plus I’d been into work first and had two meetings already. Worrying about this scan. The whole thing mildly traumatized me – couldn’t sleep afterwards, couldn’t calm down.

Maybe that’s what set me off Wednesday. I was trying to get my project finished fast, which means moving the managers along in the meetings. Then my last meeting before review, the screen in our meeting room wouldn’t work. (I project a document that we review.) I fiddled with it for a long time, then we moved to another room. There, there was also a problem with the projection. Everyone took turns trying to diagnose and fix, to no avail. So we found a third room, which finally worked. Half my meeting was already over. So perhaps my nerves were a tad frayed.

My boss then wanted certain changes, and I argued fiercely against them. One of the issues was much bigger than the project, and there was no point even discussing it, but I waded in. Stupid. The other, he may have been right. And it became so important for me to win, to prove him wrong. My boss. Stupid stupid stupid. That’s what happens when that attacker part takes over – I get super intense about things. And I project a hurtful energy.

I believe this part is modeled on my father. Unfortunately, knowledge was a big big deal at our house when I was a child. Being smart, and knowing the most, was the thing that was valued. And my father had to be the smartest. Or at least, the person who evaluated who is smartest. Someone had to be right, someone had to be wrong. People’s feelings were completely irrelevant.

I’ve stayed away from academia, which is where all this would really come into play. But I do have work where problems need to be discussed and solved – I’m not gardening, or something more physical or creative. I think analysis is where my talents lie, anyway. Though who knows, maybe I could be more creative, given a chance.

I don’t believe that people’s feelings don’t matter. I don’t believe there’s a winner and a loser. But this part believes those things. When this part kicks in, things go to hell in a hand basket.

After the meeting, I then switched into the kid, which is the part of it I discussed with Ron in my session. There wasn’t time to discuss the other part of it. And I’d hoped this would all be water under the bridge this week.

Well, this week’s meetings were not good. I’d sensed I’d hurt my boss’ feelings last week, and this week he doesn’t seem to like me. Then the same manager who echoed my kid voice last week, made a sarcastic comment about me. I’d asked to be included in an email, and she said something like ‘oh and you’re so quiet, it’d be so easy to forget you’ in this really sarcastic voice.

When she said that, I stopped talking, and was quieter the rest of the meeting. It’s probably true, I may be talking too much. Not more than her, but too much for my role there. It did really hurt my feelings. And for her to feel free to say that, I’d say there was not a good feeling about me generally. I’ve always rather liked this manager. She’s older, and she still has style. She’s knowledgeable and down to earth. But I realized, she’s consistently being a little mean – she doesn’t much like me. She’s been in the same role for many many years – maybe I threaten her a bit, who knows. Anyway, I no longer like her. I am going to be guarded around her and not particularly friendly.

In that same meeting, my boss made some comment about ‘did I want to retire’….there was a context, but it felt like a weird comment, like he wanted to get rid of me.

And there’s the thing. As a contractor, as soon as someone doesn’t like me, I’m vulnerable to being let go. They’d save some money – my job isn’t vital, it’s more a nice to have. Anyway, that’s my fear, when I start getting a bad vibe from my boss, as I am this week.

Just before I logged off today, he sent me an email asking me to list my projects for the last year. It’s not something he’s ever asked for before, and it suggests my usefulness may be being evaluated. Or maybe not – but given I feel awful about work, I’m quick to think this is the case.

This is when it’s especially tough being single with a single income. And I wish I had a more stable job while I work on my issues. Work is a good place to work on things, as I’m triggered there a lot.

So I feel down. Kind of like throwing up. Kind of like needing to lie down all the time and stare at the ceiling.

Art: Mirror Reflections, Joe Amenechi

Last time in therapy.

Talk about the book Ron lent me. Doesn’t go anywhere much. I tell him I identified the most with the man who suffers from catatonia, and is afraid he’s going to go into that state again. I’m not very articulate and don’t get to why this moved me.

I tell him I had a difficult dance class. I was super tired, because I’d had to work all day on site, and I’ve been sleeping very badly.

My main problem that week was the sleeping. I wake up every night after a few hours, feeling scared, blank, and so lonely I think I’ll die of it. Then if I do get back to sleep, I just float instead of sinking into sleep. I think of it as traumatic sleep – I don’t dream, I wake up blank and super alert, I’m awake really early and don’t feel tired at that point, but it hits me later. It’s like being super tense all the time, then suddenly not being able to cope with the stress of it.

So I force myself out to dance class, and my friend, who is the reason I’m taking the stupid class in the first place, tells me I look very tired. And I forget to take any meds to calm down, I’m so out of it. So I’m scared the whole class.

I tell Ron about this. I forget to tell the part that bothers me the most – I end up switched into the kid for parts of the lesson. Not a traumatized kid, but the sociable kid. It makes some sense, because the kid likes dancing. Theoretically, a five year old can do this stuff. And any chat required is basic, which the kid loves. So the things I say are all in this kid voice. I’m not that aware at the time, but when I get home I’m embarrassed. I suppose I switch when I’m exhausted – I lack the energy to hold things together.

I think the sleep problem is due to a traumatized part. So we work on the parts. One part says over and over that she doesn’t want to go home. I tell Ron about this. I sit there on his couch and try to find that part, let her speak. So she says her piece, she doesn’t want to go home. Why not, Ron says. What happens there? You know you don’t have to go there anymore. Do you like Ellen’s home?

But she has nothing further to say. She, or I, find Ron’s words reassuring somehow.

I do feel though that something is happening to me, sitting there and allowing this part to come forward. I feel scared, and I feel my legs tingling, which happens when a new part emerges sometimes. I remember things from our apartment in European country – the carpet, the toys.

I remember being punished one time. This is me remembering, I tell Ron, not the part. I remember I was outside, playing with my friends, very happy and excited. My mother calls me and my sister in for dinner. My sister goes in, but I don’t want to go. I’m having too much fun. Finally, our game ends and I rush home. My mother sends me to my room without dinner as punishment. I remember furiously kicking at the door of my room, crying. I am so angry. It was a favorite dinner of mine – potato pancakes.

That was a severe punishment, Ron says.

Yeah? I don’t know….

Can you imagine treating a child like that, who is five?

Maybe. Not now, but in the past. Well….I never withheld food from my child.

It was severe punishment, Ron insists.

Perhaps. It wasn’t abuse. For those times, I think it was pretty average actually.

I think about this afterwards for a long time. It disturbs me. What I find really troubling is that I’m remembering this angry child, kicking at the door of her room, from the outside only. I can’t remember being her. I can remember being the child who played outside, who was excited and happily rushing around. By the time I was punished though, I seem to be hovering outside of myself somehow.

I’m having a difficult time, suddenly. Things were ticking along, and now they’re not. It started with times of heaviness, feeling smothered. Needing to lie down. Sadness.

I think it’s bits of PTSD, weighing me down. I’m not dealing with any of it in therapy, so I get to feel depressed instead.

In a way, the therapy break has been fine. I had one downturn, after attending a family event, and I wrote Ron an email about it. But other than that, I’ve been OK.

Nothing upsetting has happened to me. I haven’t even been lonely, really, except for today, where I was working from home. On the weekend I saw people every day.

I look in the mirror and my face has a greyish tinge. Oh dear. Big circles under the eyes.

I have noticed a kind of simmering rage against my siblings. I’m mentally working out how to arrange my life so I never see them again. Hard to understand why this is coming up now, when usually I don’t give them a single thought.

The family event two weeks ago was to welcome an out of town aunt and cousin who were staying with my parents. I find the aunt very appealing and kind. We had tea together on a different day and had a good time chatting. The cousin is OK. He’s a few years older than I am and I don’t know him well.

At the family dinner, there were two cousins and my sister and brother. They all joked around together. I didn’t really try to be part of it, but it was obvious, I wasn’t included. Then I found out my sister and brother had taken this out of town cousin out the evening before, without asking me. It kind of cut me, when I found that out. It’s like I can never take it in, that they do not include me.

For many many years, in my family, I was the scapegoat – just not as good as the other two kids. There was so much pain in the family, someone had to be at fault perhaps. Now my parents have more or less given this attitude up, but my siblings hang on to it for dear life.

Or, sometimes I think, perhaps I do act strange and stiff. Maybe there is something rather wrong with me.

It’s as if I’m from the wrong social class. In their case, it’s from the wrong intellectual class. Just stupid. And crass. I don’t say smart things.

I know these are things I need to put behind me. Sometimes it seems that if I keep going to these family events, I’ll always stay confused. Are they treating me like garbage? Or am I imagining it? It’s all done so subtly – things not said, people not talked to, expressions of disinterest.

This time, it was my brother who was ready to change the conversation. If I talk with anyone, one of them tends to be around to quickly change the topic to vegetables or the garden, if I should talk about anything they consider ‘dangerous’. Which is almost anything apparently. I notice it now. I was talking to my aunt about her childhood home, which burned down. She was sad about it, and my brother immediately switched the topic to tomatoes.

I can see at a cocktail party, or in social situations where you do not know people well, that you would want to keep to neutral topics. But with family too? How neutral do you have to be?

We used to have a great-aunt, Aunt H. She had a crooked back from childhood and had had a hard life, never married, living by herself in the country. She tended to be rather silent and negative. She was invited to family occasions out of duty – she was a relation, but no one cared much for her, and we made fun of her behind her back sometimes.

It was unkind and unfair. I believe she had simply had a hard and isolated life. Well, I think I’m falling into that category – the outcast who must be invited but not accepted as one of the family really.

Not quite. But in that ballpark. My family is one where outcasts happen.

Thanksgiving is the next big event where I’ll be expected to appear. If only I had alternatives. This is where being married would be very helpful. In any case, I’m considering staying away.

Lots to be depressed about.

blue2The last fifteen minutes are again devoted to parts, which for me is the part of therapy that actually helps.

E. So doing the parts last time was helpful. It kind of takes the pressure off, I have fewer symptoms.

R. So shall we do that again?

E. Yeah, I guess.

Ron and I grin at each other. “I guess” is my resistance. I do and I don’t want to do this. It feels out of control and I’m leery of it, but i know it helps.

The part this time is still stuck in time in Big American Suburb, where we lived when I was about eight years old.

I have trouble letting this part speak, so I talk to Ron instead.

E. What do you think is happening with these parts? Why is it so difficult?

R. I think you’re trying to do something that’s complicated…..

E. I feel like I’m not doing therapy right.

R. Talk from that place. How are you not doing it right?

So I switch into a part that tells me I’m useless. This I find easy to do.

E. You are stupid and you don’t do anything right! You are doing it completely wrong, and you are hopeless!

So then the kid part starts to cry.

E. But I try to do it right! I try, but then things don’t work out, and it’s hard, and I don’t do things right….

I’m crying my eyes out.

R. Who told you you didn’t do anything right Ellen?

E. I don’t know….Maybe my dad? Maybe my sister? I don’t know who….

There’s more back and forth which I don’t now recall. Sometimes I talk more from the attacking voice, but mostly I just respond like a young child.

It’s time to go, and I am having trouble stopping crying. I switch back out, but it’s a bit shaky. I feel embarrassed I’ve become this whiny child who is upset, but where I can’t really make out what she’s upset about. I talk to Ron.

E. So is this what you signed up to go to therapy school for? Clients turning into kids and crying about nothing?

Ron nods calmly.

R. Yes. Ellen, try not to turn this on yourself now.

E. OK.

R. This is how we find out why you feel about things as you do.

I was just checking if Ron thinks I’m being strange and childish and, um, doing therapy wrong. Since both the attacking voice and the child voice are me, I flip back and forth between their points of view.

E. I need to sit here a minute.

My time is up, but dammit, I can’t stop crying, so I’m going to sit tight until I can. Shortly, I get up. I borrow a book from Ron’s shelves – a habit of mine when he goes away. More Lauren Slater – Opening Skinner’s Box. At this point I can’t stop talking, and I tell Ron about the other Slater books I’ve read, and he smiles at me. I wish him a good vacation, and go.

Earlier in the session, Ron has offered me a ten minute check-in phone call for next Monday. So I’ll talk to him once while he’s away, and it makes the kid part of me feel somewhat better about his absence.

My father could be quite harsh when I was a child. This back and forth seems to have been preserved inside of me. I wonder why that happens. Perhaps when children aren’t allowed to feel, everything goes underground.

I noticed after I wrote the post about the work meeting, how it’s kind of like that still. Things don’t go that well, and I beat myself up very severely. That meeting didn’t go well for a number of reasons. I had something to do with it, but not all. And anyway, it was not some huge deal, it was a little meeting. But when you have severe reprimands going on internally, everything seems like a disaster that I caused.