Therapy is getting real hard now.

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There’s a reason why I haven’t been posting about my therapy here much lately.    I posted about a dream a couple of weeks ago that I thought was significant and I emailed it to my therapist, since I’d been finding excuses to not go to my sessions.   He wants to talk to me about this when I see him next, which is this week.

He feels that I’m running away from something (I posted about that in my last post) and I know he’s right.   We’re getting into some heavy duty stuff now, having to do with early trauma I faced at the hands of my mother from about 5 – 7 years of age.  Some of the trauma is sexually charged (even though it wasn’t technical sexual abuse), but I can’t explain more about that here right now.    I know the worst thing I can do is avoid therapy now, because I’m reaching an important crossroads, but that’s exactly what I’ve been doing.

At the same time, I really want to explore this because I know that only in doing so, will I have a breakthrough that could change everything and make me whole again.

The reason I’ve been posting less about therapy is because right now I feel more vulnerable during our sessions than I ever have.   Part of this is because of me.   I’m getting into the roots of my disorders and it’s not just painful, but makes me feel overwhelming shame. I’ve even been reluctant to tell my therapist all the details about exactly what happened (and I certainly can’t talk about it here yet either).   But I remember everything.   I just haven’t been able to release the trauma because I have so much trouble confronting it, and every time he tries to bring it up, I change the subject, start laughing, or try to distract him from talking about it again.   At the same time, the fact I do not makes me feel like I’m cheating myself and the session just becomes a whole lot of nothing, and it’s all my own fault.  And then I feel guilty about it.

The other reason I’ve been posting less about therapy is because of some of the feelings that are coming up for me that are related to some new techniques my therapist is trying on me.  They are definitely working, but they tap directly into the core of my vulnerability and fear of attachment, so I’ve been skittish and reticent, and at the same time my feelings of attachment and transference toward my therapist are growing.

This involves light (non-sexual) touch during our sessions, which he is completely ethical about.  He always asks permission first.  He’s respectful and sensitive about my boundaries, and if I say no, he just says okay.

It’s easier for me to become emotional in our sessions than it used to be, but he noticed that very often, whenever I’d be on the verge of tears, I’d change the subject or make a joke to break the emotion.   I begged him to stop me when I do that. “Don’t make me run from it; make me feel it no matter how much I try to distract myself from doing so or try to get you to change the subject,” I pleaded.

Both of us realize how important emotional catharsis (crying) is for my healing, and that it’s the best way to release my trauma.   I have difficulty crying but it’s been getting a lot easier.   What he does now, is when I start to get choked up,  is he moves in closer (we face each other with no desk in between) so our knees are touching.   This light, nonsexual physical contact sometimes makes me want to pull away, but I fight that temptation and just allow myself to feel uncomfortable or embarrassed for a minute.   He stays silent while I gather myself and get used to the contact, and then the feelings of discomfort pass.   It’s a lot like getting into a cold pool — after a few seconds of discomfort, it feels great.

Once I’m comfortable, that’s when the tears start.   Then he moves in about one inch closer and holds my knees together between his own.   This isn’t sexual; I feel like it’s a way to “hold” me and keep me feeling grounded and connected with my body while I deal with “uncontrollable” feelings that normally make me feel completely dissociated, panicked, and out of control.   I asked him about this and that’s exactly why he does it.  It works too.

He’ll ask me to describe exactly what I feel and if there are any visuals or memories connected to whatever feelings come up.   Sometimes the tears are flowing freely at this point, and sometimes not.   I used to cover my face in his presence when I cried, but now I’ll just keep talking and let him see my tears.   However, we have both noticed I always cover my mouth and nosewhen this happens.  I’m not really ashamed of the tears per se, but more of being an “ugly crier,” which I always thought I was.   It’s our goal to get me to full-on, deep sobbing, which hasn’t happened yet.   Sometimes I wonder if it ever will.

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I usually keep talking while I cry, but sometimes I go silent or bury my face in my hands.  When this happens, he doesn’t tell me to stop crying, or “please don’t be upset” or anything like that.  What he does instead is make soothing noises, much like a loving parent would make if their child was upset.  Sometimes he’ll even put a hand on my arm and I feel like this steadies and grounds me.  It makes me feel cared for.

Sometimes his empathy and the fact I’m being treated exactly the way I had wanted to be treated by my own parents — with nonjudgmental concern, compassion, and understanding — sends me over the deep end and I feel so overwhelmed and moved I can’t handle it anymore.   The feeling of empathic affection emanating from him becomes TOO intense — and as much as I am so starved for that, I’m not used to it.   As a result, sometimes I (unconsciously) try to shatter the feeling of connection by pulling away suddenly, changing the subject, or laughing from embarrassment.   Sometimes my laughter becomes hysterical and almost uncontrollable, because I just can’t handle all the feelings — and some of these feelings are sexual too (on my part).   I haven’t told him about that.

My therapist tries to get me to connect whatever emotion I’m feeling with a memory.   It’s rare that I can do this; in fact, more often than not I don’t know exactly why I’m crying and can’t seem to name any emotion at all, or if I do, it’s several emotions all mixed together in a jumble.   It seems as if I have plenty of strong emotions and even the ability to release them to some extent, but my conscious, thinking mind is so dissociated from my heart and feeling mind, that it’s often hard for me to describe the emotion or name it.

Connecting emotions to a traumatic event is even harder.   Although I can remember traumatic events, many in vivid detail and some very early in my life, whenever I talk about them, I do so coldly and without much emotion, as if those things happened to someone else.   The goal is to get me to reconnect those parts of my mind that hold the memories to the parts that hold the feelings that were originally connected to the memories.   The disconnection occurred because of the traumatic nature of the memories.   I can be “retraumatized” (usually without knowing exactly why) and I can remember events, but I can’t experience them together yet.

Our sessions are so emotional now that my transference toward him has increased. That was part of what I was running from too.  I didn’t want to feel that.   But I need to, and need to learn how to work through the complicated emotions so eventually I can transfer those onto others and learn to attach to people in an authentic and vulnerable way, and finally be unafraid of expressing real, vulnerable, “weak” emotions to others.   What’s happening in therapy now is really an incredibly beautiful thing, but a part of me is ashamed of its “sappiness.”   But why should I be ashamed of it?   Why are only anger and “tough emotions” acceptable? That’s exactly what’s wrong with the whole world!

Another weird thing that has happened is that sometimes after our sessions,  I come home and find my eyes welling with tears at random times and seemingly for no reason. He has instructed me to try to find an emotion to connect these moments with, if not an actual memory.    So far I haven’t been able to do that but he did say it doesn’t really matter if I can or can’t — even if I can’t find an emotion or memory to connect the crying with, it’s still a release of trauma.  Trauma can be released physically (through crying, screaming, or other means), even if there is no memory of what originally caused it or a discernible emotion to connect it to.

This week I’m going to do better.  I’m diving into this and not looking back.    I have to stop being so afraid of confronting the truth about my past and just plow through the shame and let whatever happens, happen.

This was one of the hardest posts I’ve ever written, but I knew I had to.    I hope it helps others.

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15 thoughts on “Therapy is getting real hard now.

  1. It helps me tremendously to read about your experiences in therapy. Thank you so much for sharing this very private experience. I have often wondered what exactly is supposed to happen in therapy because of all the years I have not been helped in the long run. It’s been a question for a long time as well as ‘what am I missing?’

    It’s also encouraging to read your personal progress. I think of you as a (blogging) friend and I am rooting for you. I agree with you about “that’s what’s wrong with the world” so that’s another encouraging thing about this.

    It really sounds like you’ve got yourself a compassionate therapist and he knows what to do to help get you through all the muck that is PTSD.

    One more thing: Don’t be so hard on yourself. 🙂 It’s not easy stuff you’re dealing with and from what you’ve written (and I’ve read from you) over time, I can see the progress.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you for your encouragement and support. I think of you as a blogging friend too. I’m lucky my therapist is compassionate — many if not most are not. I’ve had other therapists who were just TERRIBLE —
      clueless, no empathy, scolding, distant, or just had no idea what they were doing. Mine seems to sense what I need before I even have to ask.
      That’s how I know he’s an empath, and I think in a therapist, high empathy is even more important than skill or training — because they will instinctively know what will work and what won’t. Women are usually better at that sort of thing but occasionally you run into a man who is highly empathic.
      As for the “that’s what’s wrong with the world,” I do wonder sometimes if recoiling from “soft” emotions is programmed into us, not only by narcissistic or sociopathic parents (like I had) or by the society itself. Certainly the type of cold, no-empathy, Ayn Rand worshipping, warmongering, blame-the-victim for all society’s ills society we currently live in (especially under Trump —
      sorry if I stepped on any Republican toes here) doesn’t help people to develop empathy or the desire to express any soft emotions. It’s too dangerous! However, I have noticed a tendency among younger (Millennial) parents these days who have young children to encourage empathy, consideration for others, and sharing (a return of The Golden Rule). That’s encouraging. The Millennials give me hope that change is possible.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I totally get this – you’re taking the biggest steps you can, and even though you may know, intellectually, that you need to take bigger steps, you may simply not be capable, emotionally, of taking those, so give yourself grace about that. I think it’s great that you recognize your deflecting techniques, and of course that’s the first step to changing the habit, but you apparently had a darned good reason to create those techniques so have patience with yourself! And keep challenging yourself. It’s really hard to allow ourselves to have emotions when we’ve been trained not to. It’s really hard to let go when we’ve had to be so controlled. So I think you’re doing great and I’m cheering you on from the blogosphere sidelines here 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Wow! Thanks for sharing such intimate experiences. What’s amazing is that you can remember so much. So much of my childhood is a blur. Did you always remember so much or is this a result of the therapy?

    So brave of you — not just the work, but also sharing. Congratulations on all the amazing progress.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! Here’s the thing. I remember a LOT — but much of it is spotty. There are some parts of my life that are almost completely BLACKED OUT. So it’s like these vivid memories that pop out of blackness…the rest are all just foggy, almost like an impressionistic painting. Others, I can only remember bits and pieces of, but the rest eludes me. But THIS memory…the one I WON’T talk about (yet)–for some reason I remember it all but cannot connect emotion to it. Weird the way the mind works, huh? It’s like emotional amnesia. If I remember the whole thing, the emotion part is missing.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. This is such an incredibly brave post! well done on being able to share it! And no judgement, I think that you are doing an AMAZING job to realise the issues you have and to LEARN HOW TO COPE WITH THEM! My mother is breaking me to pieces, I’m an empath, she is a narc. I read your post about how the empath and the narc need eachother just a few days ago and really touched my heart. I think mum was a HSP who’s childhood turned her down the road to narc instead of empath. She lacks empathy and what she does have is certainly COLD. Here you are, bravely learning to break down your walls and heal so that you don’t hurt those around you, that is so incredibly touching and I feel a huge sence of pride and faith just knowing that there are people like you out there!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi Luckyotter. As a matter of interest, have you tried hypnosis with your therapist at all? I refer my clients to hypnosis, rather than talk therapy, as in (deep) hypnosis, one is able to get to the core of problems much quicker than talk therapy, and events that you have blocked out or hardly remember, are dealt with in a calm, helping fashion, and are replaced with positive feelings.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thanks for sharing this. So helpful to know there are others going through similar battles. I broke down and sobbed during my therapy session today. As I was leaving, my therapist hugged me and I started sobbing again.

    Liked by 1 person

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