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PTSD

My life lately has been all about work, surviving work, recovering from work. It’s a pressured situation and it’s really hard on me. Ron was on vacation last week, so there’s no therapy update.

I’m not sure what to say. My problem is how to calm down this PTSD body so I can have a life. In one of our sessions, Ron was saying I need to try and do whatever I can to have a life. Make decisions that support me having a life that I want.

I don’t know how to do that because I’m just. too. tired.

Another person was let go from my project at work. So I’m one of four survivors out of seven hired a month ago. Now they’ve actually ramped up the project and hired ten more writers, two of whom were also let go after four days.

I’m not quite making my targets, but hanging on nonetheless. My work is of decent quality, so I guess they’ve decided to keep me for now. But I’m constantly dreading being let go, and it tires me out. It would be OK if I was. It’s just a contract, and I wouldn’t be alone in being fired.

I am always looking for some way to come back into my body after work, so I can feel things besides fear, and so I can sleep. This kind of situation is not that that good for me. Though there are good parts – I do like a challenge. There are no severe people problems at work. The work is challenging enough that I am fairly engaged. I don’t have the problem of too much downtime and low expectations.

It’s just very cut-throat. It’s how I’d heard business was, but never experienced personally.

I went to my 12 step group, and after a few weeks of feeling more connected, once again felt alone and misunderstood. I don’t connect well to people in this anxious state. I shared about it, but maybe came across badly.¬† Some people I knew pretended they didn’t see me after the meeting and it hurt my feelings.

Anyway. I’m glad to be working and don’t feel I can quit at the moment. If I could just calm the f down.

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One thing that really is hitting home for me from this week’s evening session is the realization that I’m being triggered.

Work continues to be an enormous struggle for me. This has been a theme for me pretty much since I started in the workforce, basically seventeen years ago. The difficulties change, but it remains the case that I am struggling pretty hard nevertheless. Usually the trouble is not the work per se, but troubles with bosses, with co-workers, or sometimes with such low level work it bores me to tears.

This particular contract seems to be triggering massive anxiety for me. A second person was fired from our small team at the end of last week. They don’t even get their two weeks’ notice – they’re just gone. We’re told the person was being difficult with the client. Who knows what their side of it is.

And the fact is, I’m not meeting my metrics unfortunately. Last time I did, kind of by a fluke. But this week, I have to fix up last week’s documents, as it turned out I was writing in a different way than what is required. Would have been nice to get that feedback sooner, but oh well. The thing is, fixing up these ‘old’ docs is taking precious days away from the seven new docs I am to produce over the next two weeks.

Anyhoo. I had a real low Monday. I came home completely overwhelmed and convinced I too was about to be fired. I had the overwhelming urge to quit this job, both to avoid the stress of it and to forestall the humiliation of being let go. But – I knew I had just quit another job recently. What’s with all the quitting? In addition, ye olde bank account was crying for funds.

I decided to phone people to ask for advice. My friend J was home, and after I’d semi hysterically explained my situation to him, I started to feel better. He actually came over and brought me food, he was so concerned, which was kind. It was amazing how much more tolerable the situation became once I could discuss it. It was difficult to explain why I was so sure I too was about to be let go, and I realized the situation wasn’t that clear. Though I think the relief I felt had more to do with telling someone else what was going on than with re-jigging my thinking. Maybe it was both.

I went to therapy and explained about the job, about my fears, about my extreme need to quit and how I dealt with it the day before. Ron asked if I was anxious, and I told him I thought I was having massive anxiety, and did I seem anxious. He said he thought there was a layer of anxiety over top of a lot of other feelings. And that I am likely triggered by the work situation into past feelings.

There is a part, V, that has been loud and prominent. This is a young teen part of me. That part experienced so much pain, loneliness and rejection. I spoke a bit about that time of my life, how I more or less stopped speaking to anyone. How I was depressed all the time, and sure this was my fault and my failing, but not able to work out what I could do about it. I remember the heaviness and hopelessness of that time.

So lying there on Ron’s couch, I started to feel some of those feelings. They hurt to feel, but feeling them reduces the anxiety.

At work, my co-workers have been commenting, asking if I’m OK or doing better. I guess I’ve been giving out distress vibes. I’m trying not to do that – I want to be seen as capable as anyone else.

If my feelings at work are kinds of emotional flashbacks to my past, at least my extreme feelings make some sense. Those feelings of alienation and helplessness are feelings I had as a teenager.

Today we had a meeting at work with the big boss. I felt completely alienated, and he actually asked me if anything was wrong. I stood there, as the meeting progressed, and started to acknowledge to myself that a lot of these feelings were coming from that part, and from the past. And it helped a lot. I tried to focus on the here and now, where bad things are not currently happening to me. I was then able to engage a bit with the meeting, asking some questions not in a hostile way, but just in a normal conversational way, and the response was good. So then I again felt more a part of the meeting, and more a part of the team, and less under threat, and less angry.

Ron said that the task is to separate the present from those past feelings. And I knew that before, really. But for some reason this thought is really meaningful to me right now. There is nothing so terrible happening right now. I have a job with some challenges, but also some good points. The boss/PM continues pleasant and seems actually good at his job. He seems to see his job as helping the team get things done rather than harass us or whip us into shape. My co-workers also are fairly decent and we all rub along. And I’m earning good money.

Anyway, it doesn’t make sense that I keep falling into despair or fear because of this contract. It makes a lot more sense if I see it as flashbacks to my past.

Last session was one of the few that didn’t leave me with a major therapy hangover. We spoke about the interview. I can’t remember what else we spoke about – something about staying adult I think. Ron said being an adult in conversations is being as authentic as you can…or something. I should have written this down, because he said something more complex. I commented that I’m just talking about staying adult as opposed to flipping into a child part.

I talked about the difficulty I have going to things. More than half the time, I don’t go to things I’ve had planned, because I feel too overwhelmed, and I feel in the wrong state to go out and interact with people. We talked about my 12 step group. Ron thought if I am able to be somewhat honest about what I’m going through, I’d feel better about being there. I said I didn’t think people would relate to being in parts, and then I’d feel more of a freak than I already do.

Ron thought if I can bring in some part of my honest experience it would be helpful. Which I agree with, and I do try to do.

There’s more to my difficulties than being in parts, though that’s a big piece of it. I’m getting inappropriate emotions in various situations, like a kind of loud mouthed irritation at a job interview, which is really really not serving me at all. It is very frustrating.

At the end of the session, Ron suggested tracking my mood and any parts that are forward hour by hour for a week, emailing him the tracked results at the end of each day. I’ve been doing that and it’s been interesting, because I forget pretty fast what state I’m in during the day. I tell him it seems like an unusual request from him – he never seems to want to track anything or be at all systematic. It’s always ‘tell me about your family’ or exploring feelings.

Another part of the session I remember. I keep bringing up my relationship with Ron, because I find when I talk about it a bit, it helps me feel connected to him. If I don’t talk about it, I feel as if I’m speaking, but no one is listening. Although I know he is listening, really, but I can’t feel it. I was speaking about some feelings, and then felt kind of ashamed. I mentioned that, and that I was wondering if he thought it was wrong to speak of these kinds of things. That I felt ashamed and like it was wrong. And that my mother would always have rejected any emotions being expressed, and shamed me. Ron said he felt the opposite of it being wrong to speak of feelings. And that my mother had absolutely no idea of how one should be in the world.

Which made me feel good. Always, my mother gets off the hook. She is the essential ‘good girl’, never angry, always providing cooking and cleaning services, and if not, reading. She never actively opposes or corrects anyone. She’s more like this absence. If you’re her child, it is quite agonizing to not be seen or responded to though. I don’t think I’ve literally ever heard anyone say a word against her. Oh, except my best friend in grade school one time. She said something like ‘your mother’ and rolled her eyes. I’ve always remembered that small exchange, as it’s the only actual time anyone made any kind of criticism of my mother, in my presence, ever. To the present day. Now Ron’s comment makes the second time.

Because this session was more focused on the present, a little more practical, I wonder if Ron did hear me, about wanting to improve my life. It needs improvement, believe me. It’s hard to fix my life if I need to spend several days in bed after each therapy session to recover. I miss a lot when that happens. Not being as triggered by therapy would be helpful, for a while anyhow.

Argh. Chocolate and almonds for dinner. I have leftovers I could warm up for more nourishment, and I’m too down to do it. Too down to warm up leftovers. Seems pathetic.

I had another interview today for a short contract. I’d bought a new suit. I wore the necklace. I still feel all that inadequacy these new duds were supposed to ease.

I keep getting blindsided by intense emotions that interfere with these interviews. And it’s different every time. The one before Christmas, I was so sad I couldn’t really hide it. I knew I was putting out a really strange vibe, and despite initially being a shoe in for the contract, she went on to interview others and hire someone else. That sadness seemed to be triggered out by an acupuncture session I’d had the day before. I had not been expecting that reaction at all – I’d been hoping for calmness and balance.

This time, I don’t know what the cause was, though I feel like blaming my working out yesterday. I added another minute to my elliptical routine, and this seemed to wind me up so I couldn’t sleep properly and went right back to trauma sleep.

Today I didn’t feel depressed, but was anxious and uneasy. I did all kinds of things to calm down – dancing, breathing with bells, visualizing the interview going well. I got there, kind of in the nick of time, and found myself horribly anxious. Two young women interviewed, with another on the phone. This time, I was kind of too loud and speaking fast without thinking. Kind of like a know it all. Which isn’t really my personality. I didn’t establish rapport, which you have to do in interviews. When it comes down to it, if they like you, they hire you.

I actually don’t have a strong sense that they will not hire me. Or that they will. But I do wish I could be one personality at these things, instead of being hit with a whole new way of reacting each time. It feels insane. I can’t really plan any mitigation when it’s always a new problem.

Then I came home and fell asleep, so since then, I’ve had to try and struggle out of the blackness and confusion of one of these trauma naps.

As part of all this, I’ve started doubting my therapy and Ron’s competence again. All week, I’d felt that we do have a connection and that therapy is working. Maybe it’s related to my general uncertainty, but that’s gone, and I really miss it. It does seem I’m still in that place where emotional states seem to come out of nowhere and make my life extremely difficult.

I spoke too soon in my last post. This is the thing with dissociation – I have trouble knowing what I’m feeling. I continued to feel better about Ron and our relationship. But the pain I had gotten into at the end of the session came back with a vengeance the next day. I got up for breakfast, felt so bad I couldn’t manage to make any, and went¬† straight back to bed.

I suppose the exercise Saturday temporarily blocked the pain.

I don’t really know what it is. It’s not depression – it’s not a grey lifeless fog – it’s more like emotional pain – as if something has happened to me that’s really bad, but unfortunately, I can’t remember what it is.

Maybe it’s some kind of early childhood memory. Just the edge of something really bad happening. I have a sense of my mother rejecting me and shutting me down, presumably when I went to her with whatever it was that had happened to me.

Spent a lot of yesterday in bed, unable to deal. But did go out to see some friends later in the day. I almost cancelled, then went afterall. And I could separate from the pain. I had a self I could use to interact. Which was helpful, as I got a bit of companionship. Even if I’d wanted to talk about what I was going through, really, what could I have said? Some vague sliver of memory from therapy? Painful feelings? My friend would not have understood, and I didn’t have the slightest urge to tell her about it. I was just relieved I could function socially.

I am committed though to not shutting myself down if I can help it. That pain is still here, three days later. I don’t really know how to take care of it, but I acknowledge that it’s here. I try to be kind to myself.

Today I also bought a suit. Basically the first one I tried on. I knew I didn’t have the energy to shop around, and this one seemed good enough. I feel I need to look better for interviews. Black wool, single button blazer. Then wanted to buy a necklace to go with – just a business type necklace. I might return the one I got – is it junky? I don’t think it’s me. So now I’m hung up on this stupid necklace.

I’m getting worried about finances and I’ve spent a lot today. All in service of drumming up business though. I’m not cut out for having no money. I’d rather make it than endlessly scrimp and save.

Feeling calmer again. It feels like a victory, to have this island of calm after such rough holiday seas.

I don’t want to jinx anything by writing it, as this peace feels fragile and hard won. And yet, I want to make sense of it.

I had a make up session Friday afternoon. In terms of Ron and his therapy, I felt a lot better, although upsetting feelings came up that I have been processing ever since, until tonight. I was determined not to pretend in my session – by pretending, I mean I ignore some of my feelings about Ron and the therapy, and just go ahead and talk about my issues or events in my life, such as they are. Ron asked me how I’d felt after last session, and after briefly revisiting his lateness, I said that mainly, I’d felt criticized. So we discussed that. He also brought up that he’d been getting the impression I am thinking some other form of therapy would help me more. Which I agreed I had been thinking and considering leaving.

It was a hard discussion. It’s hard to say you feel criticized and unsupported. He wanted me to point to specific instances, but I just stuck with what happened last session. We talked about how I was wondering if it was related to my issues with my father, who was very critical of me. It’s hard to describe my feeling about Ron, especially because it changes so much. I had been feeling like either he’s not really there, which is like my mother was, or at other times, that he is super critical of me and any attempts I make to help myself.

I ask him what’s wrong with going to the gym, with reading self-help books, with going to groups? And he replies that those things are all good things to do. I say I understand that I’m in therapy to explore my feelings, but that when I’m at home, not in his office, don’t i need to try and feel better?

Ron said about how it seems like sometimes I don’t want to talk about things that come up, and he’s interested in understanding why that is. I say sometimes I’m just maxed out on feelings, and can’t deal with one more bad thing – say we’re talking about my mother, and then my son’s situation comes up – I just can’t handle everything at once. He says that the reason I feel maxed out is that my energy is bound up in the thing I don’t want to talk about, and if I talked about it, it would help. Or something. That everything is basically stemming from one root. Um.

I really find it difficult to verbalize and articulate an argument in his office. My feelings are so involved, somehow, it’s like trying to see through a thick fog. Arguments become foggy and indistinct. I no longer know what’s true for me.

I liked how Ron stuck with it. He does invite me to say anything I wish to say, about him or about his therapy. Well, at least that session he did. And I really sat with how difficult trying to connect with him felt, how far away he felt.

And I stayed with my feelings, even when they didn’t make all that much sense. And of course stuff came up. I remembered about a self-help technique I’ve been doing – shaking and dancing. I told Ron about it. You put on some music. First you shake your body, from the feet right up your body to your head, all parts shaking and jiggling, for about five minutes. Then you pause. Then you dance, again five or ten minutes. Then you rest a few minutes. This is supposed to help with depression, to shake lose stuck energy. The resting allows you to absorb the benefits. I’ve found this really helpful to do.

Ron is interested in this – he is interested in body based type healing, even though he doesn’t ever suggest doing it. For me, because of the dissociation, the shaking tends to shake lose bits of things – I’ll cry for a few seconds, then stop. Also slices of trauma come up, then are gone. It’s not enough to plunge me into despair, but enough to lighten the depression as I guess it’s a bit of a release.

So I easily call up one of the slices of whatever it is in Ron’s office, to demonstrate. I become younger. Then I realize I’m seeing an image, of myself wandering through a wasteland, brown mud, full of these deep dark disgusting pools that I’m afraid I’m going to fall into. It is like in Lord of the Rings, one of the terrors of the voyage. I feel the lostness, the fear, the overwhelming nature of walking around these pools, afraid.

What would happen if you fell in? I’d be covered in blackness, in black goo. It would be awful.

I wish I could remember what Ron said here. I tell Ron that now i’ve told him about this image, I feel ashamed. Why? I don’t know. It’s like news from a foreign country. Here I am, telling my therapist about difficult feelings I’m having, which is an OK thing to do. So the feelings are like a memory. My mother would have not reacted well to difficult feelings. I would have been made to feel ashamed. Ron says something about how as a child, I was devastated by my mother’s complete negation of my experience. Or something. I never can remember what he said when I’m in the grip of these experiences.

I leave feeling connected again. I really like how seriously Ron takes images that come up for me – as if they were actual occurrences, which is how they feel to me. He kind of leaps right into whatever it is that is going on.

So since then, I struggled with the devastating feeling that came up in the last part of the session. And tonight, I feel like I’ve come through it. I did keep trying things and didn’t allow myself to collapse for more than a few hours. Maybe the key is to pay attention, but keep trying to help. So I stopped reading my novel that was making me feel worse. I started listening to a children’s book on my ipod instead. I went to the gym in the afternoon. I cooked a decent supper. I didn’t push myself to go to my group when I didn’t want to go. When parts of me didn’t want to go.

I also feel trust in Ron, and that helps. It cheers parts of me up a lot.

The pain from the session was severe, and now it’s lifted it’s like I’ve come through a short illness. I would like to know what I did, what helped, and this is the best I can come up with. I actually feel if someone was here that I needed to interact with, I could do it, I could be normal. I feel like things are OK again.

I am walking through depression these days, that’s for sure. Trying to keep my head above water. I ordered four different self-help books from the library, or maybe five? I can’t decide what I have that’s most urgent – PTSD Workbook, Anxiety Toolkit, 7 steps Through Depression, Compassion Therapy for Social Anxiety. Four. Plus the Mindful Way through Depression, my old favorite. I feel as if I have pretty much every diagnosis out there except for bipolar or schizophrenia. Oh, I’m also not obsessive compulsive. Everything else, I’ve got.

Today I went to the gym, so I am proud of this. Yesterday I spent a lot of hours in bed, so today I’m more active. I might go to 12 step group tonite. Or maybe let it be for a while.

Yesterday was my first session after the holidays. Ron was thirty minutes late. The boundaries with him, which until a few months ago he was great at holding, seem to be falling apart a bit. He gave me no notice of his unusual two week Christmas vacation, and now he both showed up very late and did not bother phoning me to tell me he was delayed. For the vacation, when I asked why there was no notice, he was completely defensive. He carefully explained how he had been telling people and maybe that was the week we did the bio session so he forgot to tell me. He didn’t apologize. What do I care what his exact problems were – the fact is, he hurt me, by inattention, and it would make sense to offer a small apology. I would, if it was me.

I assumed he’d forgotten my session yesterday, but it turned out he’d been coming in from out of town and my 11:30 appointment was his first. The weather was bad, and he was slow to get here. I can actually understand that. What I don’t understand is why he couldn’t let me know. He had a phone in his car. He could have saved me from coming in for a twenty minute session. He did apologize, and did not charge me for the twenty minutes. I do not see why he didn’t let me know. He shrugged and said his kids were in the car.

I’m going on about these small things. I find them hurtful and unprofessional.

My therapy is pretty much in the toilet. Even in the twenty minutes, I felt criticized and unsupported. To the extent that it plunged me right back into my non-functional depression. But today, I realized that I had been criticizing him, and likely hurt his feelings somewhat. Not for being late – we briefly discussed then let it go.

I don’t know. I was thinking in my mind, first of all, I’ve had a rough time, and I wanted to share some of the things I’ve been trying to help me – the exercise, the group. But also, what I remembered today, was I said I didn’t think therapy could help me. And that I wanted to work on a plan for making my life better, rather than plunging into trauma feelings, or something like that.

Which of course Ron is going to be irritated by. I don’t know if he actively dislikes trying to plan for a better life, or if it’s just something he doesn’t think works? And my saying therapy isn’t going to help – that is definitely criticism.

I also explained about my Christmas a bit – leaving the family event early. He did say a satisfying ‘wow’ when I explained how my mother and sister had reacted to my leaving before dinner was over – ‘would you like to take pie?’ and ‘thanks for coming’ respectively, nothing else.

After about fifteen minutes, he wasn’t saying anything, and I felt uneasy, so I said it always freaks me out when you sit silent like that. And he said the hurtful thing, something about what I’d said about the gym, how I’m trying to balance the anxiety exercise causes me with the depression that no exercise leaves me in. He criticized that – something about how I’m trying to manage my feelings instead of really exploring them.

The reason that hurt so much is that I’ve been struggling so very hard to not succumb to depression over the holidays – to get out of bed, to do things. Even though if I think about it, my life sucks on basically every front right now. So I try not to think about it. And I’m kind of proud of going to the gym, of finding a way, after years of avoidance. And of going to the group, despite difficulties. It’s me out there, fighting.

And Ron doesn’t see it that way. I guess. I feel criticized for not exploring feelings properly. And it makes sense, as I criticized his therapy. Which I couldn’t see at first, as my pain was overwhelming at that point.

I didn’t say anything to Ron about this. I do not need another discussion about the way to help me – we’ve done that, got the t-shirt, I don’t need to go there again.

Another thing that occurred to me is that this dynamic with Ron feels very much like the one I had with my father as a child. Enormous hurt, feeling criticized and never good enough. I in turn criticizing him. I never seemed to have any influence with my dad, and it feels similar with Ron. So maybe that’s something I can explore.

I also know that therapy feels bad when parts are no longer involved. Ever since Ron rejected B a few months ago, no parts have showed up for therapy. Ron doesn’t seem to notice – I suppose he believes they have magically disappeared. But B is the main part of me that attaches to people, so if she is no longer welcome with Ron, then I feel quite distant from him. So that’s another thing.