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.

Welp, I have a therapist.

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I didn’t think I could afford psychodynamic therapy, but there’s a program called Open Path Collective, and the rates are about half the market rate. All you need to do is pay a $49 lifetime membership fee to have access to their list of therapists. I already chose a therapist in my area who has weekend and evening hours and who specializes in trauma, PTSD and attachment issues. This is real psychodynamic therapy that gets to the roots of the problems, not just behavioral treatment, which is usually all that’s available when you’re limited on funds.

I feel really good about this decision, because for months I’ve known I really needed it. I can’t do this on my own anymore. I’m actually excited about it. As soon as I get my Member ID in my email, I can set up my first appointment.