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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.

crayon

I’m glad I attended my Friday session. Some feelings still got stirred up, but I don’t feel abandoned or in danger. And it’s nothing like last weekend, which was full of chaos and despair.

The first half, we tried to figure out what happened last time. At least I did. First we sat in silence for a while, as I couldn’t decide what to discuss. I can’t remember the details – I think I laid it  out as I have in my posts, that I think the problem was from the parts that spoke that session and were crying. Then I said I thought it wasn’t great for me to switch out of those parts, and I wasn’t sure why I did that. Maybe in a social situation it would make sense, but this was therapy after all.

Ron wanted to know what he could have done. Maybe encouraged those parts to stay? But, he said, if I did that, you’d tend to be upset with me. I might, I agree, I seem to be volatile. But the upshot was, I’d try and stay in a part more when that part was upset. It’s true it’s unclear what will help. If I stay with an upset part, those emotions can just grow stronger as well, also swamping me when I leave.

I described how tough the weekend had been. In general, Ron was concerned, but he wasn’t sure how to proceed. He said I’d had bad reactions when parts didn’t speak, and when they did. It was unclear what happens for me. I said how he used to offer me check in calls, ‘when he still cared’. How I was completely alone with this after the session.

Ron said his feelings towards me haven’t changed. That I used to be more visibly distressed after sessions, and then he’d offer the check-in, but that was still available to me. I could call or email him and we could set up a time, if I thought it would help. That felt really good, that he said I could do that. Not this weekend, as he’ll be away, but in the future.

I’d brought a big bag of art supplies to session. My blank scrap-book, crayons, my fancy adult colouring book, my artist’s pencil crayons, my dream journal. Huh. Different.

Oh, the other thing before the art was we talked about fear. I felt afraid/anxious about going to therapy, and that feeling continued through the whole first half of the session. Ron asked what i thought it was about. I wasn’t sure – maybe I was afraid he was judging me? We’d talked a bit about how I’d bought better clothes in order to fit in better at work. I think Ron doesn’t really get that, so I said maybe about the clothes, maybe you think it’s shallow. Or maybe I’m afraid of what comes up in therapy.

I opened my scrap-book and crayons. I tell Ron I have no artistic skill whatsoever, and he says he doesn’t either. I pick up a crayon and start to draw. Of course, as soon as that happens, the kid takes over, and from then on, we have kid conversation. As soon as I’m the kid, I stop feeling afraid, in fact, I feel tranquillized almost. Then softly sad. And those feelings have persisted – I’m not at all anxious, I’m sad, but in a calm, quiet way, like I’m waiting to see what happens next, without wanting to do much of anything.

I draw a pink stick figure girl, complete with triangle skirt. Then animals of course – a dog, two cats. The kid chats with Ron the whole time, about liking dogs, but with jobs we’re not home enough for dogs. After a few minutes, the kid is sad, and stops drawing for a while. Then flip over the page, and a duck. Can you tell me a story about the duck? Ron says. OK….Well the duck goes for a walk, and then she meets a dog, so she’s scared, so she hides behind a leaf. Maybe the dog is friendly? suggests Ron. OK – so the dog tickles her with his whiskers, and she laughs, and then they go on a picnic, and they eat…..they eat cake, and drink coke, and have strawberries…..

There were a few more little interactions between Ron and the kid. It felt pretty good to me – definitely connected and peaceful. Then the session was over, and we made plans  to meet in two weeks.

So I wasn’t that functional the rest of the day. Being in a part does that – I get a bunch of that part’s emotions, and it wipes me out. Today as well, I feel sad and lethargic. But it seems OK, like I can handle this. I’m not thinking of different ways to kill myself or anything.

I’m not sure what to conclude from this. The session felt helpful to me. I felt Ron was on my side, and on the kid’s side. It didn’t feel chaotic.

I think overall, I’ve been pushing too hard. I need to trust that staying with one thing in the session is enough. Almost anything stirs up a lot of feelings for me. I think I’ve been overwhelming myself, because I’m not realizing the emotional impact of what I’m going through at the time it’s happening. Even with both Ron and myself steering clear of painful topics, a whole bunch of sadness came up. I don’t think I have to try especially to deal with difficult things in session – it seems to happen by itself. I think I have to try to both be present, and then to care about the part that came up and try and comfort her.

We talked about that also. I said I don’t mean to suppress feelings, but I need more emphasis on taking care of and comforting once the feelings are there. Ron agreed there’s a huge difference between suppressing feelings and comforting, and that comforting is a good thing to do. In general Ron seemed happy to follow my lead and not push at all. He actually doesn’t push very often. I think it’s me that’s pushing too hard.

I also kind of wonder if he did start reading the book I loaned him, The Haunted Self. He seemed like a better therapist suddenly.

So I’m glad I went, and I’m glad the kid got a lot of the session time, because she needed it.

I think as a very young child, I didn’t get much non-judgmental attention from adults. It was never OK to not be much good at something, but still worth time and attention, just because of being myself. That’s what this drawing stuff kind of feels like. It’s OK  not to be much good – I’m still worth having a conversation with, wherever I’m at.

Today I was so angry. I was so disabled. I know it’s because I got hit with some trauma during therapy. It’s worse when that happens, worse than the feelings from growing up. Trauma has a special charge – that dark helplessness, the gross feelings, feeling sore and bruised, though not physically. It’s unmistakable.

That’s why those parts were crying – because of this half memory. And because I’d had a difficult night, and no chance to shake it off because therapy was first thing in the morning, bang, some trauma came up.

Now I’m going to say negative things about therapy, but I’m not sure it’s Ron’s fault. I feel a bunch of things are his fault, and I’ve felt furious with him a lot of the day, between being too depressed to function. However, maybe it’s misplaced anger that went along with this event?

I feel like he should know what’s happening. He never does. I always have to figure it out, explain it to him, and then have him believe it or not. He does believe, at the time, but because he has no theory in his mind to put it in, he just forgets again pretty much right away. So I feel he should know what’s happening, he should know how horrible and gross I’m going to feel, and he should do something, or at least say something sympathetic.

I hate that he knows nothing about flashbacks or how to help. He thinks all feeling is good, but it’s not. Not for trauma, IMO. You need to feel something in the right doses, in the right intensity, for it to be healing. For him, all feeling is great, and healing in itself, especially with him there to be supportive.

I feel really bitter and angry.

And yet, it’s likely that even if I went to someone who specializes, it would still hurt like hell, and I would hate it just as much.

I’m just not sure this is doing me any good. Having trauma come up, and yes, I get through it, it costs me a few days of my life, and then I can function again, ready for the next time it’s triggered off.

Actually the session was good, apart from this. I discussed basically all my complaints that I posted about. Ron gets to hear it all. The part where I said I haven’t been feeling connected. Ron wanted to know when I feel more connected, so I mentioned parts. And he said sometimes if I’m starting to dissociate, I start to feel he is a bit unreal, which is true. It’s a really frightening feeling actually, to be sitting there, and not able to feel his presence there, sitting opposite me.

Last session, by discussing it, it got better.

We went back and forth about his trauma skills also. I said I’d been wondering if I need a specialist. That there’d been changes in how trauma was treated in the last few decades, which he didn’t seem to know about. Ron said something about how every few years, some new technique comes along that’s supposed to speed up treatment, and then that technique fades away again. It was a more involved discussion, but the upshot was, he thinks I’m talking about some ‘technique’ and he’s more interested in the deep fundamentals of therapy.

I forget how this argument went, and I wish I remembered. I remember at one point, Ron said how he agreed with me about something or other, and he definitely heard me out entirely, for as long as I wanted to discuss this. I ended up not wanting to continue. I didn’t agree that I was just talking about ‘some technique’, but he’d been kind, and patient, and not at all angry, and I was kind of mollified by all this. I even told him the books he recommended were crap. Not in those words. But they were all from his time in therapy school, that is, two decades ago. One I found completely unreadable. The other was about this false memory syndrome crap, so called, that was so big in the nineties, which I’m just not that interested in. Nothing about dissociation at all.

Anyway. He took it all in stride. He apparently feels he knows all that’s necessary.

Anyway, am I going to change the way he does therapy? Nope. Am I likely to influence his views on his profession in any way? Again, no. If I want someone who specializes, I will have to bite the bullet and go.

I said I might look for help with trauma elsewhere, like trauma yoga perhaps. He said he does have a colleague who offers that.

On the one hand, it feels great to have this kind of discussion, and not have the person retaliate or be really hurt and angry. And I felt a connection to Ron again. On the other hand, I had one more session where I plunged into trauma without Ron knowing it was happening, which then made me furiously angry.

I should probably not switch out of parts if they’re crying. They’re very upset – why not stay with that and try to help? I’ve been switching back out in sessions when I feel too confused and too bad. But that means Ron can’t really help that much, and it looks to him, apparently, as if the problem has gone away. I’m paying Ron to help me with my overwhelming emotions – I should stay in them. I know one thing that causes the parts to flee is Ron’s questions. They don’t seem to know much, and they get confused and can’t answer, and so I switch out. I think I need to stay put. I need to stay put so those parts can be comforted, even if they don’t have any answers. The way this is working, they get triggered out, the put away, and I get to deal with a chaotic aftermath completely on my own, with Ron not even aware anything’s happened.

I will just post even though nothing is clear. I tried writing out my therapy session long hand, and it just stressed me out to do that.

I believe I’m working through grief. I felt sad for most of today. Sometimes I teeter off again into numbness, that glass wall feeling, but then I get back to sadness again. Ron said in my session he thinks I may be working through a lot of grief for a lost childhood. He didn’t say this, but I know it, that I hadn’t really been realizing the damage done.

I slipped back into the past at the very end of my session. Usually the first two thirds of it are taken up by my adult concerns. Then parts get turns. All parts that spoke were pretty sad.  Then I started to see images of our old apartment in European country, the balcony, the courtyard where I ran around with other kids, how I loved being out with the kids. And I was crying as I was talking about this. Ron said maybe I’m crying because I’m remembering a good time, before the trauma, before my father ‘went crazy’. I so want this to be true. I know that’s not it, but I don’t say it. I think with parts, they have different tracks, where the visually remembered things on one track are not the things causing the emotion, though the images may be from the same time period, just related that way. I think that’s what happens. So I don’t know what was so sad, when the visual stuff she was talking about were happy.

I’ve been having a problem again this past week that I hadn’t had for a while – the ‘naps from hell’ problem. Every day I get home from work and feel unbearably weighed down and sleepy. I go to sleep, and wake up so down, down in a deep and dark well, and it takes hours to get back to functional again. I seem OK at work – I don’t feel particularly depressed there, even though there’s nothing for me to do, and that has made me depressed in the past. It’s just when I get home, I fall into this state.

I tell Ron I think it’s something to do with dissociation – maybe I cut off all other parts and bad feelings, and then they come crashing in on me when I get home? He asks if I feel depressed that I’m home by myself. I tell him no. We don’t get any further with this – I’m not sure it’s dissociation, and if it is, what to do about it.

I tell Ron I feel we argued last time, and that it upset me. He said what did we argue about? I say I don’t want to get into it. I know it would be the same argument, and even to go near it makes me feel sick, so I don’t.

Ron says I seemed to feel that he didn’t understand me and couldn’t help me. So I say yeah, but then, who really understands all about someone else anyway? He understands some things. Ron says to help him understand more. I say no, it’s OK. Anyway, I’ll speak up as we go if he’s getting it wrong, since I don’t seem to have any trouble doing that.

We also talk about how for me, it feels like Ron could turn on me entirely because of an argument, that our relationship could be over. I agree with that. I do feel that. Even though I know in my mind, it’s therapy, and he’s likely always trying to help me, but emotionally, I feel he dislikes me now. Anyway, I just don’t feel like discussing any more. I actually do believe my arguing words make an impact on Ron, and that he is not entirely honest when he says they don’t. However, I know it’s not as serious on his side as it is for me, and that in a week’s time, he’s probably over the resentment or irritation.

I still don’t have huge amounts of trust that he has knowledge about trauma. However, since we are no longer triggering it off, I’m not being thrown into shut down, so it doesn’t seem so urgent for him to understand. He is very able to make a connection, to care, and not to judge parts. I’ve been to various therapists at this point, and just because they are educated about trauma, doesn’t mean they can help me. I really didn’t connect to any of them very much. I never knew you could honestly discuss how you felt about them or therapy – that’s totally new to me. It makes a big difference. Plus, it could be I don’t connect well to women, and most of these other therapists were women. I do have a connection to Ron, good or bad, he always affects me.

So this weekend, I’ve been sad. I haven’t accomplished much, but I haven’t shut down. I hope tomorrow I’ll be able to do more again.

Mother with Two Children

Art: Egon Schiele, Mother with Two Children

I went to therapy yesterday in a triggered state. I’d been to the gym the day before, and I guess I did too much. If I can feel the ache or tiredness right there in the gym, I’ll know it will trigger me. I did three reps of a small sequence, and it was too much.

When I woke up the next day, I felt caught in a web of blackness. I went back to bed until I had to leave for therapy.

Ron looked stressed and a bit sad. I guess his holiday was over. I wondered if something had happened, but I didn’t say anything. I don’t want to pry.

I started off the session in parts. I felt I couldn’t focus into an adult without huge effort, and I didn’t bother. The kid told Ron about the gym, about the reps. She told him about the book we’re reading, about dragons, and a girl who is part dragon, part human, who at first doesn’t know she’s part dragon. How does she find out? Ron asks. The answer is complicated, and the kid doesn’t explain too well. She bumps into her uncle, who is a dragon, but can take human form, and he becomes her teacher.

I think Ron is kind of taken aback. He’s all set to talk about my feelings about my boss, which I’d emailed him about. We do talk about that a bit, when the kid has said what she wants to say. Ron thinks I have a touch of PTSD – where a small reminder of what happened to me as a child sends me into a tailspin. I agree it could be like that. He points out that one time in the group, I felt he’d never made eye contact with me, and yet he’d remembered that he’d tried to look at me many times that evening, but that I was always looking away.

I say yes, I remember. I’d told him about the lunchroom, where the boss invited me to sit with some of the team there, but then never looked at me once as he was telling some story, while he was looking at others, so I felt he didn’t like me. Combined with the rest of what was happening.

I didn’t think the situation was the same, but who knows. It’s such a small thing.

But because of the gym situation, my inner world was in turmoil, so we didn’t spend much time on adult things. I tell Ron I sometimes cry now when I brush my teeth. He asks what I make of that. I say I guess I’m not as dissociated anymore – stuff is leaking through more. The kid starts to talk to him again. He asks her why she cries, she says she’s sad. She doesn’t seem to know. Ron says she has a technique of avoiding things. I say she just doesn’t seem to know the answers to his questions. So she came after the trauma happened? I have no idea, I say.

It’s very confusing for me sitting there, because parts seem to be swirling around, and I’m not staying in one part very long. I feel things as if I was dreaming. I try and explain to Ron.

He says the way to get through things is to keep expressing how I feel, until the feeling changes, and then express that.

That’s all I remember. The session was mostly Ron trying to talk with parts, and me sitting there, feeling kind of dizzy and out of it. It was like sitting with blackness swirling about, and not really knowing how to talk about it.

The good thing was I didn’t have that intense loneliness after, or the next day. I suppose because parts were engaged in the session. From their point of view, it’s so lonely to have a session with the one person who will take them seriously, and then not get to speak with him. The other good thing was that since I was already triggered, having parts out didn’t make me feel worse.

I didn’t shut down on the way home either. I felt OK to do chores – return bottles, do groceries, go to the natural butcher. Those bottles were rattling around in my back seat for months – it was great to get that done. Plus got the car washed clean of winter muck and grime. Once home though  I crashed.