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shame

A difficult weekend, after several in a row that seemed better.

I’ve been watching Grey’s Anatomy on Netflix. It’s all I watch at the moment. Not sure what that’s about – I can see very well it’s a soap opera, the situations are so exaggerated as to be ridiculous, the characters, well, operatic. And yet. I believe a younger part of me loves this show. As well, it is about emotions, and I want to think about emotions, and about how people are relating to each other, and this show lets me do that.

Several situations and characters remind me of my own dilemmas. In one episode, a short man has had botched surgery in China to lengthen his legs, and winds up in the hospital in danger of losing his legs altogether to infection. He defends his decision to have the leg lengthening surgery – how he can’t get any dates, how his life is a misery, how he has no confidence and no success, all due to his short stature.

And you watch him, and it’s pretty obvious his height has little to do with his problems. It’s like seeing shame on display. He feels so unworthy, so defective, that he needs to blame the length of his legs. He needs a focus for his misery. Yes, he’s slightly homely – by American TV standards he is not handsome. He would be average in everyday life. Lots of average people find partners. It’s his shame that’s the issue.

I identified with that feeling of being tainted, just doomed because of who I am. I ran into some more criticism at work last week. One of the clients I’d worked with previously in this job had complained that I’d lost one of her projects, which was ridiculous, but the complaint went through several rounds of emails without anyone ever trying to figure out if it was true or not.

Then this same client didn’t want me to document a procedure for her. She spoke to her manager about it, with me standing right there, saying it was too complicated for me to comprehend. Apparently, I ‘didn’t get it’, and had done a terrible job with a previous document. I’d thought this client and I were on friendly terms, but we’re not.

Then on the same morning, QC ‘failed’ one of my documents, and this was copied to several people.

And so I felt ashamed. So ashamed of my work, my skills, my worthiness. I almost broke down crying that morning, despite having back to back client interviews. I actually insisted on a Starbucks break so I could get away for a few minutes and replenish, which I’m pretty sure is not really allowed.

I feel that shame a lot. Not good enough. Even if I don’t run into headwinds like i did that morning. My face is just wrong. My reactions are too much, not right. I say the wrong things. My questions are wrong. My voice is wrong. Just bad.

Ugh. Luckily I don’t think I can fix it by flying to China for life threatening surgery! It’s not that I’m ‘too short’. But that feeling of shame displayed by the character who had the gruesome leg surgery – I so get that. That feeling that you’d do anything to ‘fix’ what’s so very wrong about yourself.

I had this experience last week, the same week as my dental surgery, first or second day back at work. I tried to explain it to Ron, but he didn’t really understand the way I wanted him to. I think because he sees things from the perspective of one whole person, and my problem is, I have all these different parts.

My boss was being bossy as is her wont. There was no editing, so I was given a mysterious (to me) task of downloading and filing. You’d think this would be simple, but it’s this process of trying to determine which document to download which is not obvious at all.

I can’t remember the details, but she was getting up my nose. She’s told me to send my questions by email, so I don’t bother her with questions, I ask my co-worker. Somehow, we still interacted, and I ended up responding to her in this loud, shouting kind of a way. Anything she said to me, I’d kind of shout something back. And I was super defensive, defending myself when I’d really not been accused of anything.

After this happened, and I was alone at my desk, I realized I was in a complete state. I felt so small, and completely and utterly ashamed and humiliated. And so anxious.

From this state, I emailed Ron from my phone. I’m not much good with typing on my phone so it was short. I told him I’d been triggered and was super anxious, and that I’d thought it had to do with the dental stuff. I’d been feeling a lot of parts come up while I was trying to recover, various bits of things, feeling young and not able to manage adult life. This happens to me after the dentist, and this time it had lasted a few days.

After the humiliated feeling subsided, a few hours, I was left wondering what on earth had happened. I knew it felt really bad, but it didn’t seem that bad that I had to feel so humiliated and ashamed. Then I realized I must have been acting from a younger part. If I switch in public I end up feeling this humiliated feeling.

At lunch that day, I was walking, and trying to feel into what had happened. I knew it was not fine. It was not how I wanted to be at work. And I found this furious angry part, full of black boiling anger, ready to jump on people. I could feel that part, but also not become that part. It seemed really important. I figured if I could keep tabs on how that part of me is doing, I’d avoid these stupid scenarios where I turn into that hurt child who is defending herself with everything she’s got.

Ron’s take on this, in my session yesterday, was that whether I stay calm or whether I get angry, this is a job where I have boring tasks and an unpleasant boss. I wanted to figure out a way for this switching not to happen, but his point was that it’s natural to feel angry in this situation.

But I think there’s anger and then there’s anger. Maybe I needed to get angry in that situation so that this part didn’t feel she had to jump out and be angry? But anyway. If I need to be angry, it’s not effective to have this hurt child leap out and scream at people is it.

I can see that if you’re one person, and you’re in a situation where you’re being treated badly, it might be therapeutic to get in touch with anger and allow anger some expression.  That’s not what I did. I don’t want to plunge into trauma anger, because that’s inappropriate to the situation.

I wish Ron had understood this more. To me finding this very seething angry part seemed like a big deal, and I wanted to share that with him. That sense of – oh, this is what happened, that’s why I felt humiliated, that’s why this situation seemed so awful to me.

Yikes. Another day where I get up only to go  back to bed. This time I think I wasn’t triggered so much by therapy as by my 12-step group.

I appreciate the group, and nothing bad happened. Some stories are hard to listen to, but I feel up for it. I guess it was my share, and then that some people seemed to have some reaction to what I shared, which, in the absence of much information, I maybe spun out in a way that scared me.

I shared about anger. My anger keeps simmering at work, and mostly out of my awareness unfortunately. Thursday I guess I was brusque and impatient in a meetings. I have little to do, so am trying to define some requirements for a project, and they were going around in circles. I don’t know. I didn’t mean to be impatient. But since then, I basically got the cold shoulder from my two team mates.

So I shared something about this, but didn’t explain, so it likely sounded as if I was maybe shouting at people, or being completely inappropriate, instead of basically inpatient.

Then therapy on Thursday was aggravating. A few times I had a strong impulse to get up and walk out. Again we had really a halting conversation, though at one point I said angrily that none of this was helping me. But I left calmly enough.

In the middle of the night, therapy felt unbearable, and I wrote Ron an angry email, saying I’m thinking of quitting. After five years, I don’t seem any better. I recommended a book to him, The Body Keeps the Score, to address his lack of knowledge of trauma. Not exactly kind or even handed. He had also hurt my feelings in that session. I had written to him that I was behaving badly at work, criticizing people. And he jumped on that, that I am critical, and I agreed, and said that I had criticized him also, and I know I have that quality. That’s a quality my father has, and I have it also. Just I don’t employ it to hurt vulnerable people, the way he did.

So I sent off this email at 3 am, and felt nothing very much after. I went back to sleep. At work the next day, I felt somewhat better – less aggressive. Though at that point, my team mates were giving me the cold shoulder, so I couldn’t demonstrate all my calmness and acceptance unfortunately.

In group, I said then that I’d sent my T this angry email criticizing his therapy. I didn’t explain much about it either. I was just trying to sort out what parts of my anger are from the past. Maybe all. Though some anger is needed in this life, as protection and warning.

After, this one guy gave me a worried look and asked me something about a task I do there. Another guy said I seem to be having a tough time. And a woman I met on the stairs said that ‘everything you said was very valid’….I don’t know. Usually no one comments about my share.

Today and last night I’ve felt afraid. I think it’s fear of abandonment. Expressions of anger or disagreement in my FOO resulted in shaming and complete ostracism. Ostracism is life threatening to a child, who depends on others for almost everything. So I can see why I would feel afraid.

Ron replied to my email Saturday morning, saying he was committed to working things through, if that is what I want. I hadn’t been thinking about him, but the email scared me. I wrote back that I no longer felt like I had, and that I’d had a better day on Friday and maybe therapy had helped with that. I apologized for the tone.

I’m also on tenterhooks wondering about my contract. It turned out E didn’t seem to have any information that my contract wasn’t being renewed. I keep fearing it won’t be….I haven’t found anything else, and am somewhat attached to this job, and the uncertainty is difficult.

Anyway. Today I’m wiped out and just want to sleep or read my light mystery novel. The world is too much. Must buy groceries. Must do laundry and cook.

I wrote the last post right after my session. So later on, I feel a bit differently.

I ended up needing to lie down for a few hours to deal with some of the sadness that kept coming up as a result of the session. I think even though they didn’t get that much time, the time parts did get opened those feelings up, and I got to feel more of it later.

Today I’ve been down but functional. Which is a change. I feel unhappy, but I can still do the grocery shopping, iron, and tidy up. I even went to a service this morning. Which was OK. I chose a  United Church that’s in close driving distance. The sermon was nothing special, but on the other hand, it was very easy to remember the gist of it. If I go and there’s a complex, nuanced service, I often enjoy it at the time but then am unable to remember much about it after. The gist was that God pushes us into challenges, and that these are good for us. We may not like them at the time, they may seem like losses or struggles, but that is God’s push for us to grow. And that’s fine. Nothing to object to really, and maybe it’s a helpful thought.

I didn’t bother with coffee time. I just wanted to see if going to the service itself does anything for me, without activating all my social anxieties. And – I’m not sure. One of my sociable parts loves church – just seeing people, singing, being part of something.

A more cynical part of me dislikes it because it seems hypocritical. People are so enthusiastic with the ritual of giving the peace – smiling, shaking everyone’s hand – but they don’t actually greet you if you’re sitting next to them, or say hello or goodbye. I guess they’re waiting to be introduced, lol. So I say hi to one woman who sat in my pew, and leave.

Today and at the end of yesterday, I once again feel connected to Ron. And as if something took place that helped. I think it’s the fact that he talked to parts. They need him, and are very attached to him. And after, I felt less fragmented and more of a piece. Yes, the price is a lot of sadness coming up.

The other part that helped was having an adult in charge. It is pretty frightening to have an adult life to maintain, and to have the adult go offline leaving traumatized child parts to deal. So keeping the adult self present seems vital.

Last night I slept a bit better, though still waking up several times. The second time I woke up, I wrote to Ron describing how it felt. Because when I go in to see him, I forget what the middle of the night is like. I was full of fears of never being accepted by anyone, and thinking of a thing that happened at the group I sometimes attend. This may be me being paranoid of course. But it seems to me that people there avoid me – like they won’t sit in an empty chair that’s next to me, if there are any others to pick. Last time, one of the regulars seemed to be making a point of coming over to sit in an empty chair beside me after the break. I know he meant well, but it just underlined to me how I’m not really accepted there – that he felt he needed to do that. So in the middle of the night, I woke up just pumped full of adrenaline, afraid that there is something so repellent about me everyone avoids me and will avoid me forever. It’s a really awful and scary feeling.

So I wrote it all out and sent it to Ron, and was able to sleep again.

Next week, I have to go to a session after work again. I want to stick to the same plan, if possible, to have time for parts in the first half, then spend time just being adult again in the second. Sometimes it helps to have a plan.

Ah, found the button for classic mode. Thank you WP. What a relief. I don’t need my editor to change every few months thank you very much.

Well, the second (out of four) co-worker has now left. Basically the two people I talked to at work. So now I am the sole occupant of an executive office, which my lowly self only occupied because I was sharing with two others. I could get used to this. The office is fairly large with a million dollar view, and best of all, a door to close. Work has dried up completely, as we are between ‘waves’, and have to wait. I wasn’t given any of my co-worker’s left-over docs, so I have nothing.

Luckily I have a new phone, so I can read blogs, email, apply for jobs, etc. Still, it’s a long day to fill with no work available. I’m bringing in my Kindle, so I can keep reading the Goldfinch. It won a big prize, so usually I wouldn’t enjoy it, but it’s actually a very absorbing story. It’s hard to relax enough at work to read fiction though.

I had a fairly upbeat day today. I’ve been so down at work it was scaring me. I had a four day break from it, and two of those days, I finally relaxed enough to sleep a lot. Sleep, rest, relax. I have so many more resources when I get some rest.

I got to work from home because of a hospital appointment – Tuesday morning, I had to get my colon checked again. Which meant fasting the day before, and some other things. But it was not too bad. You can get used to not eating pretty fast. Plus that made me tired, so I slept a lot.

Monday I also went for a job interview, for a job I could do with my eyes closed. But, the manager didn’t like me. What can you do. She started asking about the politics of my last job – trying to get stakeholder agreement, sign-offs. What can I say. The truth is, they waste huge amounts of time and resources with these endless reviews, changing words here and there. I’ve just learned to adapt – head down, make the changes, ignore the whole thing. Of course, I don’t say this. But what can I say that sounds good?

Anyway, the interview was before I’d spent the day sleeping, so I was pretty tired, and probably didn’t come across well. I can only show up and try my best. This one, I didn’t get.

The hospital procedure was no big problem. Not much waiting. Everyone so kind, as if I’d done something special by coming through surgery so well, and being healthy.

I did end up dissociated. Anything to do with my body brings stuff up for me.

OK, what was therapy like last week? Not sure I remember much. My main issue was lack of sleep. Right at the end of the session, the kid complained about how bad she feels when she wakes up at night. Everything all mixed up. It seemed to help – that night I slept better. But the next, not so much.

We discussed my friendship with E, as I’d been upset after our last meeting. I explained the situation. Ron didn’t think what E had said to me was that terrible. I said we were both kind of saying little negative statements to each other, kind of under the radar. It wasn’t exactly a fight, but more a not getting along. Ron wanted to know if we were passive about it. I wasn’t sure what he meant. Oh, that we didn’t respond to each other’s comments. Yes, we were passive. It doesn’t occur to me at the time someone says something hurtful, to ask them about it.

What he meant was this. I’d said to my friend that I’d enjoyed meeting her cousin the other day. She said that yes, she’d seen we got along really well, and that I hadn’t acted as nervous as I sometimes did with other people, and she was glad she’d brought her over. I found this a condescending statement – like I was being judged for my fitness as a good friend to show off to this cousin. Ron asked if I’d asked her more about that – was there some particular time I’d seemed nervous with other people, for instance.

Well, as soon as I’m hurt, I tend to shy away from whatever the topic is. But it makes sense to check it out more.

Then I told Ron some things I don’t like about E. Bitchy I suppose. But I’ve realized our values are completely different.

And I know I said some things to her that she wouldn’t like. But the worst thing I said, I blocked out completely in my session. I told E that she was manipulative, essentially. It was in the context of her explaining how she was trying to get rides from people that suited her timing exactly, so it wasn’t out of the blue, but still, not a kind thing to say at all. But it seems to me deeply true that this friend manipulates to get what she wants. Anyway, she didn’t respond to that.

Then Ron asks me how I feel about E. I start to say again how exasperated I am with her, but he says, no, how do you feel about her? As in – I like her, I love her, I want to be with her, (maybe he thinks I’m turning gay), I dislike her, I hate her. That question stops me in my tracks. Um – I consider. I come down on dislike – I dislike her. It feels very strange to say that. This is my friend. I’m not sure that’s entirely true – I have mixed feelings. We’ve known each other for a long time. But I suspect I no longer like her.

Ouch.

We also discuss why I’m waking up every night, unable to go back to sleep. Ron thinks I need to be living a less anxiety provoking life. With a job I don’t like, a friend I dislike, no one really to turn to…..just a bad situation altogether.

I’m not sure that’s the problem. Yes, a lot of my life is a mess. Although I am not struggling financially, which does make a difference. Though yes, my job is very insecure, and I was thinking I was losing it a month ago. But still, it could and has been a lot worse. There is no one abusive in my life anymore. Big win.

I tell Ron I’m not sure my life is what’s waking me up. What then? I don’t know – maybe some trauma stuff. I am often in a younger part, waking up.

And then the kid takes over, and tells Ron how she feels waking up, and I feel better for a while.

In the last five minutes, we get into ‘what if I’m making up the parts’. I go back and forth on this. How could I be making them up? But on the other hand, how could they be real? I work, I act normal, more or less. How can I be in parts?

There is a part of me that wants to keep young vulnerable parts completely hidden away. For this part, it is completely threatening to have them emerge. So this part works, in therapy and during the week, to stop parts from manifesting.

Ron asks something like why can’t both things be true? But then it’s the end of the session. It’s like he wants to argue, but there’s no time, and I get up to go. He doesn’t know about this part that keeps other parts in line – he thinks it’s me. I’m not sure what he was trying to say actually.

My session yesterday was interesting. So a quick update re my work situation. Mental update, as nothing has changed or happened there.

Ron has pointed out quite a few times over the last two years that I live in a ‘hostile world’. I expect people not to like me and I see rejection everywhere. So he thinks this work stuff is the latest installment.

It’s too painful for me to remember much of the session at the moment. I remembered, in a way, or re-experienced, how I’d felt growing up when my father didn’t talk to me for several years. I don’t think I fully felt it at the time, it was locked away in a part. But the feeling is of complete devastation and humiliation. Just feeling annihilated. At the time, no one else in my family acknowledged what was going on – they played along.

To feel so unprotected and uncared about is really hard. As children, we need to feel belonging and caring. We also need the world to make sense – that what people say, corresponds to what we see happening.

I’m mostly staying in bed just absorbing this.

I don’t totally agree with Ron that I’m only being triggered. That makes it sound like the work situation isn’t happening. I think it is happening. However, because I’m getting overwhelmingly triggered, I’m doing things to make it worse, and it feels more stark than what it probably is.

Trying to come to terms with how horribly I was treated as a child is hard. I knew intellectually, but I didn’t know emotionally.

And now, having evaded a sibling birthday dinner, I have said yes to a birthday tea this afternoon. So I have to face the people who did this to me. They’re not doing it now. I haven’t wanted to cut ties entirely. It’s not good timing for me to see them now, but the guilt of always saying no seems worse.

I’ve had a cough, though no cold to go with it, so spent a lot of yesterday sleeping. Then I still slept all night.

Not sure what I want to say. I took some cough medicine which has made me feel a bit wired, so now I can’t sleep.

We are to get snow tomorrow. Yippee. Not.

I tend to write Ron emails when I’m anxious, I’ve realized. Not so much when depressed. I can’t imagine writing will help me when I’m depressed, it’s just too much trouble, and anyway, there are not a lot of words. When I’m anxious, I’m full of fears, my mind is super active and there’s lots to write about.

About a week ago, I wrote after a dance class. That I’d apologized about twenty times, for bad steps, wrong moves, etc etc. As if my very being was wrong.

I wrote a bunch of other things, but Ron responded to that one phrase. That feelings as if my being is wrong is close to the core or my struggle, and that it’s a tortuous way to live.

That really struck me as true.

I often do feel that. As if I’m the wrong shape, the wrong person in the wrong place. As if everything I feel or say is not the right acceptable thing to feel or say. The way I look is bad.

Oddly, it’s been helpful lately to remember that. To counteract it, of course. To catch myself – oh yeah, I feel like my being is wrong. To give myself a chance to let my being be OK at that moment.