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An update. Work is not bad (for a change). The manager is nice, normal and positive. I’m working from home a lot, which really takes some pressure off of me, because going in to a corporate environment day after day takes such a toll on me. On the downside, it can be tough to motivate myself sometimes, as the work is often not engaging. And I’d like co-workers, but don’t have any on this contract. But – I’ll take it. So relieved to have paying work once again. It’s like a little bit of peace inside, just this knowledge that I have money coming in and don’t need to worry, at the moment anyway. So yay! Focus on the positives.

I continue to go to therapy. It’s so painful and confusing that I’m not sure how much I want to share about it. I haven’t felt like quitting since that session three weeks ago, so that’s positive.

I had been having sessions that focused on the adult, as if I didn’t have any parts. Which was OK. Just I’d feel, in parts of myself, that some essential things were missing. Which I suppose is the parts that didn’t get time or attention. Then I hope that I don’t actually have parts and am more normal. But it’s also painful.

Last session I went in and didn’t want to chat about my life. I’d had a massage, so talked about that. Then some exercise I did stopped me from sleeping. And I stayed with the parts of me that don’t function well. And that led back to different parts expressing themselves. And I don’t really know what to say about it. These child parts are definitely there and I think now are the source of a lot of the feelings I have – the shut-down feelings, anxiety, sadness…But also, a child part seems to hold a lot of playfulness and feelings of OKness.

It’s hard to switch back at the end of the session. I kind of manage though.

After, I felt that the adult had been missed. I had a sense that the session passed in about ten minutes, which is disorienting. I can remember it, but somehow still I have the sense that no time passed.

I’ve forgotten anything Ron said. Surely he had points to make, but I can’t remember. Mostly I’m left with the strangeness of being in all these parts. I really really don’t want to believe it.

I also re-read today a paper I had downloaded to my desktop previously –

The Treatment of Structural Dissociation in Chronically Traumatized Patients

Janina Fisher, Ph.D.

And the reason is, I desperately want some kind of roadmap as to what to do if you’re in parts. OK, I can see that I am, but I need some kind of plan. Something. Ron is kind of exploring what the situation is, but he’s hazy on what an approach might be to help this situation.

I love this paper by Fisher. Especially the last third of it, where she discusses how to treat dissociation. Her approach is all about strengthening the adult part, who then builds bridges and cares for younger traumatized parts. To me this makes a boatload of sense. I’ve always been weak on keeping the adult in charge, sometimes approaching life as if I were a child, which works badly.

Therapy sometimes seems to encourage child parts to take over. I then get stuck in a traumatized part and can’t function until that part recedes, which can take days. According to this article, this is not helpful. I also just think this is not helpful. The idea of the adult taking steps to try and soothe the parts makes a whole lot of sense.

It’s different from other therapies which encourage sitting with feelings. Fisher says that right out also. You are trying to refrain from shutting down feelings though, but you’re also trying to soothe and comfort so you feel better. Just switching into the part with the feeling doesn’t necessarily help by itself – you don’t move through it, the way you might for a feeling that’s not dissociated.

I’m considering sending Ron the article but also hesitating. He very much dislikes any kind of medicalization, so I’m worried he will reject this for that reason. She does have a kind of medical type style, with vocabulary for symptoms….My own view is that when you reject a whole category of work because you don’t like anything that seems at all ‘medical’, you throw out a lot of helpful information. No need to adopt the vocabulary of this to find it insightful.

I’ll see. I’d be so pleased if Ron read this and wanted to try the approach. Even if he just read the second half, where she discusses treatment approach, and skipped the first part, which is more theoretical, with ways of speaking that may be irritating.

Being in parts is a big problem. I really want to be working in some way that might help.

 

 

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A bit of success. I seem to have found a contract. At least, it was offered to me verbally last week, though they are slow with the written contract.

I went for an interview for a short contract with an accounting firm Wednesday. I felt fairly good going in, despite it being early for my current habits, 10 am, and despite having to slog through heavy snow and whistling wind to get down to the subway.

I am trying to work out what made the interview better, and it’s not as easy as just saying I had better answers. I didn’t. I did establish a good dialogue with a very scared younger part first. Basically reassuring and adult every step of the way. For example, that part was distressed by the snow and wind, so I reassured that we’d be fine and could warm up in the subway. And other messages such as that I’d take care of the interview (the adult) and there was no danger.

So I felt a layer of peacefulness about the situation. I was still a bit nervous, but it wasn’t as desperate as before. The manager and I then had a conversation about what she wants to do, and it didn’t feel as if she was interrogating me. I was able to summon up some anecdotes showing how, um, fantastic I am at the very skills she is looking for.

Part of it is likely just a pretty good match of personalities….She seemed to like me, and it made me feel more relaxed. She is a young person, from an Asian background but likely born in this country. I felt the conversation was good, calm and positive.

The agency phoned me that afternoon to offer me the contract.

I am very relieved to have work, even just for a few months. I’m also relieved because I can see I was able to pull my interviewing together. It’s not like some contracts I was offered where there essentially wasn’t an interview. I can see I managed the situation well.

Of course, now I’m also mentally going over all the things that have gone wrong for me with bosses. I’m hoping they won’t go wrong this time. I will be doing my very best to see that they don’t, including talking about these issues in therapy. It’s just really really time I had a decent work experience.

Well. Life is continuing very difficult. Another job interview today, for a job that doesn’t pay very well and so I’m not sure I want. And yet, it doesn’t seem to have gone well, and I am dejected. I found the interviewing manager surprisingly likeable and soft spoken. However, he didn’t really ask me questions. He discussed his ideas about communication, and told me all about what he’s looking for. I jumped in a few times trying to show how I’d be a fit for the role. But, while at the start of the interview he seemed very eager to talk to me, by the end, he was not encouraging at all. And I look back trying to think what I did, or didn’t do. And I never know. I don’t get feedback on what went wrong – I just don’t get an offer.

I have now been unemployed for four entire months. With the last job ending on a very bad note. I do worry that I just won’t find anything. Well, I’m finding things, but seem unable to get through an interview for some reason.

I am worried.

In addition, I’ve been reviewed by the tax people for my last three years returns. They’ve now sent me a bill for over ten thousand dollars which supposedly I owe. This is a complete shock to me. I have diligently sent them taxes every month – the full amount their calculator tells me to send. I have never knowingly not paid what I should.

I’ve spoken to my tax preparer. He says the agency is in the wrong, but cannot explain what’s gone wrong. I’m wondering if he prepared my taxes improperly in some way. Anyway. I can object, but would likely need to hire either an accountant or a lawyer, I don’t know which. Lawyers are so expensive, it might be hard to justify one for what is in tax terms not a large amount. If my objection were not successful, I could end up paying more, the amount plus thousands in legal fees.

I feel like Job at the moment. Shit. I’m not sure what to do. I can pay, but those are my savings I’m depleting anyway by not having work. That’s my emergency fund, and then I’m into really using up savings that were for my future.

I didn’t start working until I was forty. Due to having messed up my early life. OK. So there’s not much time to save anything for any kind of retirement. There’s just not much wriggle room.

Um. The topic of the blog is therapy, and I went on Thursday. I think the session was helpful. I told Ron I needed to not be overwhelmed because I had an interview the next day, and I can see now he takes that to heart.

First I moaned about my taxes. Which is a waste of therapy time but I have no one to talk to so it is tempting. Then my difficulties with interviews. He tried reframing some of the negative thoughts I’ve had about past contracts. I found it heartening to hear him describe some of my experience in positive terms, so it sounds like I prevailed and succeeded. We talked about self-confidence, having a lot to offer, shit like that.

There is a topic too that’s been a bit of a theme in our sessions. I find a child part jumps in and takes over, or comes up, in various social situations when I get the least bit anxious. I want to separate from the child part so I can function and present as a competent adult. It’s very hard for me. I know a lot of therapy clients are looking for their inner child, and cannot find it. My problem is more that I can’t separate from it enough.

When I’m in the middle of an interaction, I do not realize that I’ve switched, or that a child part has taken over for portions of the interaction. That child is overwhelmed, unsure, fearful and anxious. No wonder. Children are not equipped to deal with adult life. Or maybe it’s that it’s a hurt child, hurt by my past, so for her, everything is frightening.

This then makes a bad impression on people I’m interacting with. They of course don’t understand what’s happening with me, why should they. Then I simply seem somewhat mentally slow and very anxious. However, there’s actually an intelligent adult in here that wants to be part of the world. So I end up not making a good impression, and people I would like to get to know judge me and do not give me a chance.

At the beginning of the session, Ron said he thought I was in a bit of a kid place, although I wasn’t aware of it. I was just speaking a bit about my past week. I did feel anxious while I was speaking though. So maybe that’s a bit of a sign that I’m in that state – that vague anxiety. He said one thing I do is that my sentences start to go up at the end, so that every sentence is a question. It might be a clue for me when this happens.

I can get out of it if I realize it’s happening. It’s kind of like stepping aside – protecting the child part internally, and taking over as an adult. I don’t tell Ron this, but one thing I do to try and get the adult back is try to mentally feel the outline of my body – it reminds me that I’m a grown adult, and seems to help.

I am relieved that Ron finally gets that this is a problem for me. For the longest time he seemed to be saying that it’s fine to express that child part and that the issue was that I was ashamed of it. But the actual problems I’m having involve being too merged with that part. A term I’ve read recently that describes this is unblending – trying to let an adult function and take care of child parts, instead of becoming them.

I believe this is key for me, and having Ron on the same page is so great. It’s not about locking away child parts or being mean to them, but about protecting them by not sending them out into the adult world, and having an adult function out there as needed.

This is obviously not an issue for people with different responses to trauma than I had and is difficult to explain. But figuring out that this is a problem for me is huge. Sometimes I think the hardest thing is figuring out what it is that is going wrong. Once that’s pinned down a bit, you can actually try and think of what might help. Without knowing what the problem is, it’s hard to address it.

It’s a polar vortex as I’m sure you’re aware. I’ve braved the bitter bitter shattering cold every day, waiting until mid-day to go for my outing. Getting out consistently lifts my mood. I layer – long johns, wool sweater with turtleneck, large scarf, very large furry Russian grandma type hat. Got the hat last year but never used it, so I thought it was a wasted purchase. Nope. It’s enabled me to leave my house these last days in fact.

But I’ve done little else. Today I’d planned on two activities and chickened out of both. Kind of due to the cold and dark, but also due to my difficulties going to social events. The cold adds the last overwhelming reason not to go out, and it’s the straw. So I’ve been home alone for days which sucks a bit. I get lonely and wishing a lot for some company.

Tomorrow it is to warm up some by afternoon. At least it won’t be dangerous to have skin exposed for more than ten minutes, if not exactly comfortable. Sigh.

I went to therapy last week. Ron looked a lot more rested than before the holiday, when he looked pretty much shattered. I’d actually wondered after the session if someone had died. Somehow it came up, and I commented that I didn’t think he’d tell me if someone died, but he said he would. He’d just been struggling to get over being ill.

We talked about my Christmas. Also I’d gotten very ill boxing day. I spoke about that for a longer time than I usually devote to topics. It felt very satisfying to just tell the story, and Ron seemed happy to listen. In my life, no one has the patience to listen to stories. I guess that’s who I’ve surrounded myself with – people who are uncomfortable with narrative for some reason. As if telling the story of something isn’t worth their time, they must get on to the next important task.

Anyway. I believe we have a deep almost biological need to speak our stories, to tell what’s happened to us. Not even just huge events, but things that are important to us. It’s not a waste of time to speak or to listen.

Boxing day I spent seven hours in the ER. I’d woken with a painful abdomen, which proceeded to get worse throughout the day. I realized mid-morning I had to call someone with pain this bad. First I called a friend, asking her to look my symptoms up on the internet. I thought at that time maybe it was severe gas and she looked up remedies for me.

A few hours later the pain was so bad I could barely walk, and because my back was also hurting, I couldn’t lie down. So perched on the edge of my bed, I reached out to my brother, who really came through for me. He went with me to the ER by taxi and stayed a while. They did various tests, and at the end of my stay, they’d diagnosed a bladder infection.

There was a moment in the ER. The pain became very bad, and I was sitting with everyone else, waiting, starting to groan aloud. So I asked for something for the pain. They gave me morphine! And I was allowed to lie down on a cot. The sweet relief when the morphine went into effect in indescribable. Like peace after great war. After that, my stay in the ER became fine, and I left at end of day with a prescription.

Next day, the pain came back. I phoned my ex. He came over and just stayed with me, and that helped in itself. Such a relief to have someone there as I couldn’t really move, it hurt too much.

And finally, next morning, the anti-biotic kicked in and the pain receded. Wow.

Now it’s come back a bit, very mild, but I think I’ll get it checked out with my doctor. I’ve had cancer, and they did a scan in the ER which came back negative, but still. I’d like some explanation of what is hurting.

Anyhow.

Interesting to me how the pain became more bearable as soon as a friend was there – maybe twenty percent easier to bear.

So I told Ron this story, and various other things about Christmas.

The sessions are quite adult. It’s good maybe to stay adult and discuss things. Take the space to take on board what Ron has to say about things.

I am having some parts issues which I brought up at the end. The trick for me is not switching completely, but still hearing what the part wants and taking care of it. Even talking about this, I start to slip into a more childish way of talking, but never quite go over that line and switch completely.

Last session was different. In a good way I think.

I don’t want to describe the whole thing. Just a few things. After the previous session, I’d written Ron an email somewhat like my last post. A little softer, but I made my points. He didn’t reply except to offer a day and time change that would mean I’d have a few hours after work to decompress before going in to see him.

Therapy day, I actually worked part of the day from home, which also helped me be less buttoned up.

In the session, it seemed like Ron had heard me. Or, um, read me. He asked me questions instead of just gazing at me, so I felt as if he was more present. For my part, I didn’t launch into chat about my week or about work. The whole session was more about my psyche and about parts. Although sometimes I need to deal with the everyday, the everyday stuff takes up time. And it basically is my adult voice, leaving other parts shut away in the dark as it were.

We talked about a dream I’d had, of being chased by a panther while driving through the desert in a jeep with my ex. I find relating dreams in therapy quite powerful – they evoke a lot for me.

Both V and B had a say. These were the really sad, traumatized sides of these child parts. It’s so hard to deal with this. Because while letting them speak is a relief, they don’t just subside again after the session. They come up trailing a lot of really bad feelings. So I’ve been feeling less fragmented and less fake, but also in more pain.

I was so surprised that Ron changed his approach just because I wrote him an email. He didn’t directly address what I said, but he’d obviously taken it to heart.

I’m not sure what to say about our relationship. In a way, it was less personal. He acted like a therapist. And I acted like I was in therapy. This wasn’t a friend to whom I was relating the events of my week. I was there to address the damage of the past however I could. He wasn’t there to offer suggestions. He was more there to witness and to draw me out. So I feel cared about, but in a kind of impersonal way, if that makes any sense.

Dissociation is hard to describe to people who don’t have it as a major coping tool. And, it’s hard to figure out how to heal it. For one thing, the usual therapy type interventions basically target the adult me, leaving parts untouched. I could be therapized forever and would never feel better, because the feelings aren’t coming from the adult.

These parts are full of emotion, and not a whole lot of reason, though V has a lot more than B does. It’s like taking a leap, letting them speak and letting them express how they feel. It’s kind of hard to do, in a way, and I imagine it’s also hard to listen to and deal with. Traumatized children take a lot out of you.

I had the feeling afterwards that this was really worthwhile work that felt meaningful and deep to me.

Therapy once again left me unable to deal for a few days, but I think I’m through the worst of it. It seems that if a part speaks, I get all the emotions that part holds coming up afterwards, so while it doesn’t seem so bad in session, at home it’s pretty bad. Sigh.

First I asked Ron if he was away next week as in previous years. He said yes, and I protested that he hadn’t warned me…for which he apologized.

I was feeling scared about being there in his office. I suppose because last time the session sent me to bed for a few days, and I didn’t want a repeat. At the same time, I didn’t feel like not showing up either.

What did we discuss? I talk about the job offer, how it was changed, and Ron looked satisfyingly mad on my behalf. I told him the details, but then didn’t feel like going on about it anymore, though it is something that’s been preoccupying my mind.

I explain I went to the dentist, but don’t seem to have had any bad effects, which is unusual. I did feel some ‘wanting to die’ feelings when she got to the back teeth – they are so distinctive. Maybe because I felt something during the cleaning, I wasn’t triggered when I got home? Very mysterious.

I talk about the previous day, when I had a nap and woke up just in despair, in the bottom of a pit. It took hours and hours to come back to myself. After trying to push it away, I ended up going back to bed and just lying there, awake and staring at the ceiling for two hours. But then….I came out of it, or through it or something.

I did have a dream that day, which I didn’t write down, but remembered just the tail end. It was to do with my sister. We were walking through an art gallery, then went to a restaurant that was closed but had a sign it would open soon. It doesn’t seem like an upsetting dream in any way, yet that was my dream when I woke up in despair.

I ask Ron if he thinks switching into a child part, like I did last session and then in the days after, is helpful to me overall. And he said no, not necessarily. Which is different from what he used to say. He used to think that if feelings came up, this was good and I was working through them, even though it was painful. Now he was talking about how it’s helpful if it helps build bridges between parts, or lowers the wall between them. He asked if I felt like I could contain the part’s feelings. I didn’t feel I could do that. So I guess, the switching and suffering was not in the end helpful. Sigh.

It’s slow going. Conversation stops and starts. I’m feeling a lot of things, but what I’m talking about doesn’t match the feelings. I tell Ron I feel sad he is going away. Afraid. I guess that’s a younger part feeling that, I say, and he nods. I do feel afraid, though not sure of what. It seems endlessly sad that he’ll be away for a week and we won’t meet.

We have a bit of a disagreement. I say you know, I wish my life was working better. For instance, I haven’t been able to switch my summer/winter wardrobe – everything is just lying out in a mess. Ron says what if someone was there with you, maybe not directly helping, but just encouraging – would that help? Well, yes, I say, but there’s no one. I have no one to ask to help me. What about your sister, could she do it?

Now I’m angry and exasperated. My sister? We don’t even talk. Now I’m going to ask her to help me? She’s always been the star of the family – the one who knows everything, and I’ve been the dunce. Even now her life has not turned out very well. Asking her would just reinforce that – she’s the helper, I’m useless. No way!

We go back and forth on this a bit. I feel like Ron doesn’t understand my life at all. Plus why I was saying that about needing my life to work better. I said it meaning that if I keep falling into these non-functioning places with therapy, it’s even less likely that I can get things done that I need to do. And then his solution is useless for me – I really have no one to ask to help me with something like that. He doesn’t seem to get how alone I am.

Anyway. It’s not that it was a terrible idea – I can see how this would help. It’s just that it’s of no use to me.

I still feel an underlying anxiety and fear. Ron winces when I say something about his stupid ideas. That was unkind, that I said that, especially that it was said in such a childish way, without explaining myself. I should have explained it like I did here.

In a break in our conversation, I look over at Ron. I have this sense of unreality about him. I say that he seems a bit unreal, but really, he’s obviously present, so I don’t know what it is. Ron says that perhaps I (Ellen) am not entirely present – when that happens, people can seem unreal.Well, I am in parts, I say. There’s always going to be parts that are not in front, so parts of me are always not present.

I think about this. Maybe I should let parts speak a bit, I say. I’m worried about doing this, but I hate the sense that I’m not really connecting to Ron – he seems a bit like a shadow person, and that scares me. So B chats a bit, about being sick and being at home.

I’ve heard a lot from V. while I’ve been home. I tell Ron V really wants to talk, because I get that sense. Now there are only a few minutes left, but I let it happen anyway. V talks to Ron about what she likes and dislikes. She like wearing jeans, she hates business clothes. She’s reading novels that are hers. She likes walking outside, she likes sneakers and hiking boots. V has a quiet shy way of talking. It’s obvious she’s a lot more mature than B – her mind is almost like an adult’s. She has logic and more complicated things to say. My energy as V is so different.

V. says she feels as if no one likes her. Ron says quietly, do you think I don’t like you? And V says well, you don’t know me very well, because I’ve barely ever talked to you.

Ron does seem to like V. He likes her quietness and thoughtfulness.

V says she feels as if everything is black. Like…..being in a boat on a stormy ocean. Ron asks if she’s seen a famous Japanese painting of a boat and a mountain, and she says she’s seen one with a big wave, and he says that’s the one.

It’s time to go. I say I have to get back to being me, and so Ron tries grounding me – do you feel in your body, do you feel your feet, your back….

It’s interesting, because as V, I did feel that Ron was real and didn’t have that feeling of disconnection.

I get up to go, then quickly ask if I can borrow a book. I like having one of his books when Ron goes on vacation. I choose one, and go.

At home, I’ve had some trouble functioning. V is so very sad. But the fact that she’s older seems to help a bit. I’m not as confused as with younger parts, where the mind is so different. I think I’m better now, a day and a half later.

 

 

 

 

Dear Blog,

I feel so bad. OK, more specifically. Um…sad? Choking feelings? I went to therapy and ended up in a young part, B. And now I’m kind of switching, maybe. I feel bits of things, then they stop. Overall sad and not wanting to be alive, but that is another part also. Parts got stirred up.

Ron offered me a phone call at the end of session because I couldn’t switch out very well at all. We were trying grounding and it helped maybe but not a lot.

I don’t know if I want to phone him. Is it safe? Would it help me feel better? Or just more inclined to stay in a child part? Phoning anyone mostly scares me, and phoning him would be scary. Even though he is meaning to help me.

Today I was his first client for that day and it was weird. When I came out there were people in the waiting room and he said I had to go soon. So he didn’t want his next client to be waiting too long. At all.

Man. I think I could get the adult back if I needed to. But I don’t need to.

So I don’t know what to do. Should I write him and ask for a phone call or is it better to take care of this by myself. Even if I call him, I’ll still be by myself anyhow until next week.

Your friend B.