Joy.

joy2

I finally saw my therapist after 3 1/2 weeks.   I hadn’t seen him since before Christmas.   It felt like coming home.   In fact, when I saw him I did something uncharacteristic of me: I blurted out, “I MISSED YOU SO FUCKING MUCH!” and ran into his arms like a 6 year old  girl runs into her dad’s arms when he returns home from a long day at work.   He thought that was funny and laughed.  I sat down sheepishly, my face turning red from my outburst.  But he just thanked me for being so open.

We discussed the dream I had a couple of nights ago, the one where I was swimming in the ocean with my mother.   He agrees with me that my mother in the dream wasn’t actually my mother, but the part of me that internalized her critical and disapproving voice — and a lot of her narcissism.

We talked about my nakedness and the fact I was deep underwater — and feeling happy about it.   Nakedness represents my vulnerability, and the ocean is deep emotions.  I was feeling happy being vulnerable and exploring the deep ocean of feeling that I avoided for so long, like  someone who’s afraid of the water and yet desperately wants to just let go of their fear and jump in the deep end.

Because I was swimming with my mother, and she was as naked as I was in the dream (we were both much younger in the dream but were approximately the same age, yet I knew it was my mother) and because I was feeling completely comfortable in her presence, this means that the  self-critical, judgmental, narcissistic part of my personality (which is really my mother’s voice which was internalized) is integrating with the vulnerable child-me.   I had already figured most of this out myself, but his agreeing with me validated what I already knew.

Something even stranger happened yesterday, and it’s directly related to the dream.    I was browsing through one of the Christmas catalogs I always get, preparing to toss them in the recycling.   But one ad caught my eye:  an ad for JOY perfume.   JOY is very expensive — about $80 for a small bottle.   It was always my mother’s favorite fragrance and I remember my dad always bought it for her on her birthday.   I suddenly had a strong desire to purchase a bottle for her for her birthday, which isn’t until August.

I thought it was strange that I had such an idea, because I’m No Contact with my mother and intend to remain that way.   I have no desire to see her, talk to her, or have any dealings with her at all.   For the past few years I haven’t even sent her a gift, just cards on her birthday and Christmas.  Why all of a sudden would I want to send her a bottle of her favorite, and very expensive, perfume?

I told my therapist about this and we talked about it.   I want nothing from her.  Buying her the perfume wouldn’t be to “buy her love,” because I know it would never work, and in fact, I don’t even want to talk to her when she receives it.  I just want to mail it to her and leave it at that.  I expect nothing in return.

I know my mother will cry.   She’s a high spectrum narcissist, but she gets emotional about certain things.   When I was a teenager, she cried all the time, but back then she drank heavily and usually cried when drinking — or when sober, to manipulate or get attention.  She rarely cried from genuine emotion.

But I doubt anyone has given her a bottle of JOY in many years, and I know in my heart that she will cry because it will touch her.  She’s like that.   She’s easily moved to tears when people are unexpectedly kind to her.  I also know that as hateful as she always acted toward me, there’s a part of her that is desperate for my love.   I know she thinks I don’t love her, but that’s not quite true.  I just don’t want to deal with her, because I can’t and because it’s very bad for me.   I love her; I just don’t like her.    I want to do something nice for her.

But I don’t want to see her tears.  I told my therapist I know she will cry if I do this, but I wouldn’t be able to handle her emotional reaction.   He asked me why and I said I didn’t know.   Maybe it’s because her tears are triggering to me because they were so often used in the past to manipulate, or just because I can’t stand to see her out of control.  Maybe seeing her like that makes me feel too vulnerable or is just too embarrassing.    I have no idea why seeing her shed tears of gratitude would make me want to run, but I know it would.   I told him if she called me to thank me, I would avoid the call.   All I want to do is give her something that would mean something to her, because she has had such a sad life and will never escape from her prison of oblivious, un-self aware narcissism.

My therapist said what he saw happening to me was that I was turning something negative and dark into its polar opposite.  From the crucible of narcissism, real affective (not cognitive) empathy is emerging, and that is why I suddenly want to give my mother something that means so much to her, without expecting anything in return.

He told me something else too, and this bothered me a little.   He said when I first started coming to see him over a year ago, I seemed angry and cynical.   I was a little taken aback by that, because I had thought I came across as friendly and funny.   I didn’t realize back then that this was a mask, and apparently the anger I really felt wasn’t that well hidden.  (I’m not a very good narcissist because I’m such a lousy actor, apparently).  It bothered me that I could have been so transparent, but of course it’s his job to see through to my real self.

But he followed that up by admitting he hasn’t been seeing as much anger lately.   Instead, he’s seeing a loving, gentle person emerge, a person who is capable of empathy and love.   I wasn’t even aware this was happening, but he’s seeing it.  I just thought it was weird that I wanted to splurge on a bottle of JOY for my mother, but it really means much more than that, so much more than that.

Hey, Mom, I know you lurk on my other blog. I don’t know if you ever found this one.  But if you did, and you are reading this, YES, you’re getting a bottle of JOY from me for your birthday.   Don’t ask questions; just accept that it’s something I want to do for you. My biggest wish for you is that one day you will become self aware.

Me and my unpopular opinions.

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My therapist made me cry tonight.

Here is what happened. We were discussing some of my narcissistic traits, in particular my covert need to feel special or superior.   The way I do this isn’t direct or overt.   Until very recently, I was never even aware I did this.

I finally realized today that I have this pattern of always siding against popular opinions, no matter what the topic is.  I thought back over my life, about forums and online groups I’ve participated in, real life groups I’ve been part of, and realized that I actually sort of like to stir the pot, and take on whatever is the unpopular view.  Sometimes I’ll do this even when I don’t really care one way or the other.    For example, there was this entertainment forum I used to post on.  There was a celebrity everyone there hated, and I really had no opinion one way or the other, but still, I found myself righteously defending this celebrity against the haters (and siding against who everyone else liked).   At the time I thought it was because I was defending an underdog, because I  do have a strong sense of justice.   And that was true, but it wasn’t the main reason.  The primary reason I took a different stand than everyone else was because doing so made me feel special, not part of the “group think.”  Hey, I wasn’t a sheep who couldn’t think for myself!  I had original ideas and was smarter than everyone else! I knew more!   I was special!  Of course I would never state this directly.  I always wanted to be thought of as a nice person.  As long as you thought of me as nice and smart, everything was hunky dory.   If you challenged either my intelligence or my good intentions,  I’d get all butt-hurt and plead innocence.  Or disappear in humiliation.  I had a habit of disappearing or leaving groups when my “superior” opinions were challenged–or when I was called out for acting like an arrogant know it all.  I couldn’t back up my arguments because I lacked conviction.   I never took a real stand on anything because I didn’t have any real convictions.  I only cared about myself.   Feeling strongly about issues outside of myself is something very new for me.

The other reason I sided with whatever was unpopular was because I have always felt like an underdog, and was never a popular kid.   So I could relate to underdogs and anything unpopular, even if it was a concept or a thing rather than a person.

This same pattern reappears over and over and over, as far back as I can remember.  In any group situation, either online or offline, I *always* find myself having a different opinion than everyone else, whether it’s politics, entertainment, home decor, food, music, or anything else.     I can be very contrary, and this is annoying to some people.   I can understand why too.  It’s because of this underlying feeling that I am better or smarter or something.  But it isn’t really that at all.   In reality, I feel like I might be inferior to you, so this “proves” I’m not.    I’m not always sure when I am being sincere and when I’m not, or is it just this need to feel special or smarter than everyone else? I’m not sure sometimes.   I think it’s a bit of both.   I do feel like my views about things on this and my other blog are my real, sincere ones.  I’m getting a lot better.

Of course, my contrariness would bring me the attention I craved– usually the negative kind, but I enjoyed stirring the pot and then sitting back and acting all innocent and wondering why *I* was being persecuted!   Now I feel like I’m on the outside looking in and the view makes me want to cringe in horror.

My point here isn’t about what my opinions actually are.   Sometimes I really do feel strongly about the “unpopular opinion,” especially recently.   It’s about my narcissism and my quest for the emotional empathy I lost.  Or feel like I lost.

I told my therapist about all this, and he pointed out the fact that I sided with underdogs  meant I was showing a kind of empathy.   Then he told me that I developed the narcissism as a protective shield to keep my empathy safely hidden so it wouldn’t be harmed and that I had done a good job as its guardian. (It also buried my roiling and uncontrollable borderline emotions so I didn’t have to feel them).

This happened toward the end of our session (it annoys me that if tears come, it’s usually in the last 5 minutes).  I just buried my face in my hands and cried.   I’m not even sure why I was crying but I just felt warm inside because he understood.   I also knew what he said was the truth and it really hit home.  He asked me what made me so emotional so I told him I never felt like anyone empathized with me and that  whenever anyone does, I’m almost overwhelmed with relief and gratitude, like someone who is starving and finally gets a hot meal.

I know this post is a little disjointed and probably doesn’t make a lot of sense.  Everything is just so confusing to me right now.    I have a lot to process.

Do narcissists ever cry? (article from The Narcissistic Life)

I believe I wrote an article a while back with the same title (my conclusion — yes, they do)  but this article is better and I like the way it doesn’t stigmatize narcissistic tears or the reasons why they cry as always insincere (it’s not always crocodile tears meant to get supply).   Sometimes they just cry because they hurt.

My  own article about this, written when I was still  enraged at my own narcissists, took a much more negative and cynical view of the reasons why narcissists may cry.

Do Narcissists Ever Cry?

By Alexander Burgemeester, for The Narcissistic Life.

cry-1

Whilst narcissism is often characterised by bombast and a seemingly unwavering self-belief, there are times when even a narcissist may cry. Do Narcissists cry? It seems impossible but it is true. So how can someone who is so tied up with their own success, self-image and the presentation of themselves in their everyday lives suffer the kind of emotion or tearful outburst that is more characteristic of us other mere mortals?

Read the rest of this post here.

Breaking through and the emotional power of music.

breakingthrough

I can’t even begin to explain the details of what’s happening to me right now.   Saying I’m triggered would be an understatement.   Triggered?  I feel like I’m losing my fucking mind.

My therapist told me the other night that he’s been seeing changes in me — a willingness to be open and honest and connect — and he also told me he was moved by our session (he’s always saying things like that–he’s an emotional empath and that is so important to me right now).   I can’t go into specifics about what has triggered me so profoundly, but he thinks what’s happening is good, and that it means I’m approaching a big breakthrough.   He sees me trying to connect, trying so hard to access buried emotions.  But I still get so frustrated because I feel like there’s a great wall holding back the flood.  I’m so sick of being emotionally constipated.

Today the flood happened.   I could barely get through my workday because of all the crying that just came out of nowhere.      It made me mad, because although I desperately need to cry out all that shit that’s keeping me from being able to really live my life and connect with others, why can’t it happen in my therapist’s office?  Why does it always happen in some fucking inconvenient place, like while I’m at work?  I mean, at least I work alone most of the time, so that’s a plus.   But still, it makes me so mad I just want to go break a bunch of things.   Of course I don’t do that.   It’s not that I don’t have emotions, but why can’t they OBEY ME?   Why do they go into hiding whenever my therapist and I try to coax them out, and only come out when they know they’re going to shame and embarrass me?  SO annoying.

But it’s fine when it happens at home, more than fine actually. I had to choke back tears all day and wait until I got home before I could really let myself go.  I’ve always been highly responsive to music. On the radio this morning, I heard Radiohead’s “Fake Plastic Trees” and starting bawling in the car.    I don’t know what it is about that song–is it the melody? The somber and sad arrangement? The lyrics?  I don’t know.  But it’s a song that always gets my faucets turned on full blast.   A lot of music does that to me.   In my recovery  journey, I’ve found music to be one of the most powerful tools  for healing and that’s why (on Lucky Otter’s Haven, mostly), I  post about music so much.

Everything triggered me today. This morning on the way to work, the lady at the convenience store where I pick up my snacks and coffee was short and rude to me today. She usually is very nice. I felt personally attacked and thought she hated me and the tears started again. Why does everyone have to be so mean? I felt as vulnerable as a de-shelled hermit crab.

I was in so much unbearable pain I finally called my therapist (something I try to avoid doing because of my fear of overstepping anyone’s boundaries, including his).  He wasn’t there but I left a message. I was nearly incoherent because I was crying so hard while trying to speak. I begged him to call me.  I didn’t hear back from him until tonight.   I felt like he was ignoring me.

When I finally got out of work, I went home and uploaded the Radiohead song and put it on speaker,  cranking it up as loud as I could make it.  And the tears started, probably a hundred of them, along with uncontrollable sobbing.  I lay on my bed crying like this for at least an hour, just letting all the pain and sadness and loneliness and emptiness wash over me and out of me.     I tried to stay mindful while this was happening, acknowledging the feelings, and observing myself as if from a distance. I realized it was good, even though I felt like I wanted to die.    I didn’t make any clear connections to a triggering event in my past, but I think it was a lot of things, just a lot of trapped pain that had to be purged.

My therapist called me finally, acknowledging my earlier, desperate message.  He apologized for not calling earlier, but he was out of service area all day.   He wasn’t ignoring me, as I had feared.    I told him about all the crying and the Radiohead song. I told him about the rude lady at the convenience store and about how I drive everyone away with my tendency to be high maintenance (or more often in recent years, reject them or be cold when they try get too close).  I talked about the excruciating emotional pain and that I felt like I was going crazy.    I talked about how alone I feel, how disconnected from other people, and all the regrets I have due to all my bad choices. I don’t want to be like that anymore!  I hate it.

But every time I try to connect with anyone, I worry that  they will wind up hating me and leave.   That’s why I avoid people. That’s why I don’t have any real friends in the physical world.   I won’t allow myself too because I think I’m too worthless and they will abandon me, the way my own family abandoned me.    My therapist reminded me that the meltdown is because my abandonment depression has been triggered.   But he also congratulated me and said that this was huge and that watching me unfold touches him.  Of course that got me bawling all over again, but this time in gratitude and happiness that someone really does care. It always surprises me when someone lets me know they do care and my feelings are valid. I’m so not used to that.  “You’re not crazy, Lauren,” he said.  “You’re breaking through and it’s supposed to hurt.”   Like a shot in the arm?

Grieving.

I need to grieve over what I have lost. I need to mourn the self I could have been and am finally discovering after so many years of being lost to BPD and C-PTSD.

The three or four silent tears I’ve shed in therapy don’t cut it. I need to be able to really break down and let go, complete with deep convulsive sobbing and floods of snot and tears. It’s frustrating to me that I haven’t been able to do this yet, because I feel all that grief still bottled up inside me and like a poison it drags me down, saps my energy, and sometimes physically hurts. Eventually it will kill me if I don’t let it go.

My therapist is helping me get there, but I’m impatient. I want it to happen right now. I know I’ll feel so much better when I can cry deeply and without shame. I think training my Judge to tone down the criticisms and cut me a little slack might help me to grieve the way I need to.

Another brick in the wall…nuked!

crumbling-wall

How do I even begin? What happened tonight in my therapy session was a little thing, objectively speaking, really a very little thing. But to me it was a huge, HUGE deal, maybe even a breakthrough of some sort.

I refuse to write a separate post about this, but when I got home from work, my mother called. She had gotten my phone number through my son and I took the call because it was coming from a New York phone and my mother lives in Illinois so I had no idea who it was. Normally I don’t take phone calls if I can’t tell who’s calling but for some reason I took it this time. When I heard her voice, it was like being transported back to being a five year old again. All my mindfulness skills and everything I know about narcissism and No Contact went flying out the window.  I won’t go into detail because nothing of any consequence was said. She told me she just wanted to hear my voice and proceeded to ask a bunch of personal questions. I felt like she was checking up on me for her own benefit, which is probably the case. I put on my fake-nice act and answered her questions as politely as I could, telling her nothing too personal, and finally made an excuse about having a sore throat (which is actually true because I’m still sick) and had to get off the phone.

I brought up the phone call in therapy. I asked my therapist (rhetorically) why I can’t just tell her to bug off. Rationally I know nothing would happen if I did that. I know she’s read my blog so surely she knows how I feel about her. Sure, she might get mad, but really why should I care? What could she do to me? Nothing! He suggested (correctly) that I was programmed from an early age to always respond to her in a certain manner, and that programming is hard to break, and that’s what’s making it so hard for me. I started laughing about the idea of myself being a computer that could be programmed. I looked at him and told him to debug me. He laughed at that, but really it wasn’t funny. I felt a little hysterical.

I’m always a little more emotionally labile when I’m ill, and so this illness he gave me last week acted as a kind of emotional lubricant–or maybe I was just ready and what I’m about to describe was going to happen anyway.

I said I was tired of talking about my mother and I wanted to talk about my transference feelings instead. It’s what I’d been planning to talk about but my mother, even in my therapy sessions, always has a way of drawing all the attention to herself and I wasn’t going to let that happen tonight.  Recently we have been meeting twice a week instead of once a week, but I won’t be able to afford to do that for too much longer, or at least for the next few weeks. I explained hard it is for me to only be able to meet him once a week because of my strong feelings of attachment. He wanted me to elaborate on this and describe how it felt. I had to think about that for awhile. The closest I could come was that it’s a little bit like limerence but without the sexual and obsessive aspects and has a more infantile quality. (There’s also a kind of mindfulness to it that’s impossible to explain but that keeps it from getting out of control.) It’s the way I imagine a baby feels about their primary caregiver. That I’m this little baby and he’s the only person who ever mirrored me or accepted me unconditionally for me. Because of that I feel extra vulnerable with him, too close to my raw core and fearing rejection while at the same time being able to let my guard down in a way I normally can’t. When I was asked to elaborate on the vulnerable feelings I had to think about it for a long time.

Finally I began to explain (in what I felt was a very childlike manner) and to my surprise I started to cry. I’ve come close to crying a couple of times recently, but this time my eyes actually filled up and a couple of tears spilled over (which I wiped away quickly). Sure, I didn’t sob and there weren’t many tears and it all ended quickly, but it happened. For just a minute, I shed real tears in front of another human being! Even more astounding to me than that, I felt no shame doing so. In fact, I was very proud of myself and even while I cried, I knew exactly what was happening and felt really, really good about it. So my tears turned to laughter and he laughed along with me. It was a real, bona fide emotional connection. How can that be? I don’t have those! I don’t connect with people! This was surreal.

“How did you do that?” I asked, sort of gobsmacked.
“I did nothing,” he said. “You did that yourself.” He was smiling.
“Then I guess you’re just the facilitator!”
“Well, I do have a degree!” he said jokingly.
We laughed again. Then the tears almost started again.
“You’re getting emotional,” he observed. “What’s going on?”
“I DON’T KNOW!” I wailed like a three year old. And I didn’t. I didn’t know why I was so emotional, but I felt happy that I was. “I just feel fragile, that’s all.” My lower lip was trembling like a toddler’s.
“I want you to know I think you’re very strong.” His eyes were shining.

So, another brick in that f*cking wall crumbled tonight.
I put my shoes back on (lately I’ve been taking them off and putting my feet on the couch–it seems to help somehow).
As I was leaving, he said our session moved him. I wanted to hug him so much right then but of course I didn’t.

I made my therapist cry, but I still can’t.

I told him about the dream I described here a few days ago.   The one where we were sitting in the grass and he just held me and I felt the bliss of a newborn bonded with a loving parent and feeling merged with them, unable to tell myself apart from the other and not caring because nothing else mattered but the nurturing bond.    I was shy about telling him because I was afraid he’d be disgusted. I think I was projecting my own feelings of disgust over being that helpless and vulnerable onto him.  He wasn’t disgusted at all.  He  was touched.   He wanted to talk about it further, so we did.

Our talk about attachment and bonding led to me talking about my mother’s rejection of me.  I told him I never got over my mother kicking me out of the house when I was 17.  It scarred me badly and still haunts me to this day.  I thought I’d mentioned it before but I guess I hadn’t.  When I finally looked at him, he was wiping his eyes.  That surprised and touched me but I felt envious too because all I can do is sit there and talk about horrible things that happened to me in an unemotional and disconnected way, as if they happened to someone else.   I intellectualize everything in session and can’t really feel the emotion of the thing.   But then I go home and am flooded with feelings, when I’m all alone and have no one to share it with.   No one to hold me and make me feel safe and loved the way I did in my dream.  But at least the emotions are happening, even if the timing is all wrong.   I guess I’m just not ready to shed tears in session yet.   But I do get frustrated with myself for not being able to break down that wall any faster.

Envious of him or not, I’m glad my therapist is so empathetic.  If I ever cry in front of anyone, it will be him.

What the hell?!

I was looking at websites about Easter candy, of all things, and tears just started pouring down my face. I don’t mean a few tears either, I’m talking about a damn river and this went on for about 45 minutes. I wasn’t sobbing or even really crying; it was like someone just turned the hose on. My nose was running too. I just kept reading the websites as if everything was business as usual. I tried to think about what emotion I was feeling and I don’t even know. It’s just pure, raw, unnameable, generic emotion, neither good nor bad, and not even particularly strong, but the release felt good. I think something loosened up inside me from tonight’s session. I wonder if this is a common thing.

I learned a little trick for getting more in touch with my emotions and allowing myself to experience them, and it’s surprisingly simple. Most people have a tendency to say things like “I am angry” or “I am sad.” But you aren’t your emotions, you just HAVE emotions. So, instead, if you can say “I feel angry” or “I have sadness,” it creates a bit of distance between yourself and your emotions, and paradoxically, that distance makes it safer to allow yourself to fully experience them. Of course, I have no idea WHAT I felt tonight, but it was still an emotion and I let myself experience it without fear or shame.

A very unpleasant dream.

dontleaveme

I need to write this down where I’ll remember this later.

I just woke up from a dream. I must remember this one so I can tell my therapist. Right now I’m still rising up from the fog of sleep and my memory of the dream is still fresh but will fade away soon so I can’t delay in writing it.

I am waiting to see my therapist. But my therapist isn’t my therapist. He is my old therapist (the one I had when I was 22, the one who I fell madly in love with and had to leave because my emotions were too painful). But he is still my current therapist. (I know, but it made sense in the dream.)

Someone is talking to me and I’m crying. It’s not a bad cry or a painful cry. I think I’m crying in empathy. I don’t know what I’ve been told or what emotion I’m feeling, but my head is thrown back and tears are streaming from the sides of my eyes and down into my hair. My lashes stick together. I’m wearing non waterproof mascara; I’m vaguely aware the black tear tracks will be visible to my therapist even after they’ve dried. I leave them there, almost proudly, intending for him to see. We’ve been working on getting me to cry in session. I need for him to see the evidence of my tears.

His office is in some kind of art complex. Outside, patrons are walking around looking at and purchasing art. My handsome therapist comes out, as he always does in real life, to ask me kindly to give him another five minutes. But this time, his face worries me. He looks worried or concerned. He tells me there is something he needs to tell me. I feel the blood drain from my face and my heart curls up into a tight ball as if to protect itself from whatever’s coming.

“It might disturb you, but don’t worry,” he says. And then he walks away.

Of course I worry. In fact, I panic. I go back out into the art complex and walk around, pretending to look at the art. There seems to be a party going on. People are dressing in costumes. I think about what my therapist has to tell me. Is he sick? Going to dump me? Leaving town? Is he going to die? Dread and my old friend, Fear of Abandonment, holds me fast. I can’t escape. My breathing quickens and becomes shallow. My tears have dried and I can’t make anymore even as I will them to come.

Soon I see my therapist laughing with a woman, a beautiful woman. I wonder if that’s his wife.
My therapist turns, approaches me. I freeze in place, almost drop the raku vase I’m holding.
I start to cry when our eyes meet.
But pride takes over.
“You’re an asshole,” I say, rubbing my eyes with my fists like a spoiled child. I no longer want him to see me cry. I don’t want him to have the satisfaction.

He looks angry.
“I’m not going to see you when you talk to me that way,” he says. I look at him dumbly, stunned into silence.
“But what about–?”
“I’ll see you next time,” he says, and turns on his heel and walks away.

He might as well have just stabbed me in the stomach. I feel as if I could collapse onto the floor. I want to disappear. The shame and anger is overwhelming. And I have to wait to find out whatever horrible news he has to tell me. I think he’s trying to torture me.

I’m still in the art complex and people are walking around as if the world didn’t just end. All the therapists in the office are milling around too, drinking out of cocktail glasses with ridiculous little plastic umbrellas and other doodads sticking out of them. Someone has set up a cash bar at the far end. My therapist is over there, laughing with the other therapists. I feel like I don’t exist.

One of the therapists gets up on a podium and says we are having an animal costume contest. We will be dancing to “Old McDonald Had a Farm” in our animal suits. I don’t want to be there, but I feel obligated to participate. A huge box is pulled out from somewhere and everyone rushes over and starts pulling out costumes. All I can find is a chicken head and a silly cowprint suit. Somehow it seems familiar to me, as if someone in my past had worn this same costume before. I put it on and feel like I can be invisible in it. I just want to die.

I woke up and was overcome with relief when I realized it was only a dream and knew I had to post it right away. I haven’t worked out what it all means yet, but I’m pretty sure I’m skirting around the edges of the yawning black hole at my center, where my abandonment and early attachment issues live. I’m about to dive in there, I guess. It’s interesting that even though I trust my therapist more than anyone I’ve ever known, and he hs given me NO reason to think he would ever abandon me, this fear I have of him abandoning me seems to be a recurring theme in our sessions. Obviously my transference toward him has been successful and I’m replaying some kind of abandonment/rejection trauma I experienced when I was a child.

Always waiting for the other shoe to drop…

afraid-to-be-happy

I think I made a kind of breakthrough in my therapy session tonight. For years one of my problems has been this overwhelming fear that something bad will happen to one of my kids. (I don’t like to even say the D word because I irrationally believe if I say it, I’ll somehow make it happen, by putting it out into the universe or something).

Of course all parents worry about their adult kids, especially when they know they’re out there somewhere in cars, which we all know are dangerous hunks of metal capable of the most ghastly and gory deaths you can imagine and operated by countless idiots and drunks on the road who can’t drive. I think my apprehension about something bad happening to my adult children edges into OCD-type territory though, because of how overpowering and pervasive these thoughts are, intruding where and when they are not welcome, even though I know that in all likelihood, something bad will NOT happen and even if it does, worrying about it excessively is like living through it twice. I think about my hypothetical reaction to such an event and wonder how I would retain my sanity, if not my will to live. I always marvel at people who have lost a child in a sudden manner like a car accident (a long illness is more bearable because you have time to prepare for it and process it) and wonder how they can still go on with their day to day activities–going shopping, paying bills, working at a job, watching a movie, hell, even having FUN sometimes. I know that wouldn’t be me and I obsess over how I might react.

I’ve been so haunted by the remote possibility of getting THAT life-changing phone call late some night (you know the one), that it’s even been a recurrent theme in my writings. I had a dream over a year ago about losing my son, and wrote a post about it, called Losing Ethan.

fine_line

Anyway, I decided to bring up this problem because it doesn’t exactly make my life happier and it annoys the hell out of my kids. The first thing my therapist did was tell me to stop BEING those feelings, but just OWN them. In other words, he’d noticed that when I talk about bad feelings that make me ashamed or anxious, I always use the term “I am….” Instead he told me to practice saying, “I feel…” or “I have…” In this way, you create a bit of a distance between yourself and the bad feeling. That doesn’t mean you don’t feel it, but with a little distance, the emotion can be explored, almost from the viewpoint of a third person. Ironically, what happens is you feel the emotion MORE (I can’t really explain why that works but it does).

His advice was brilliant, because a few minutes later, I made a connection. In 1998, with my then-husband in jail, I was forced to learn to drive his stickshift truck. I had to teach myself and never learned to park the truck properly. So after picking up my kids from their after school program and pulling into our driveway, I set it to Neutral and the truck began to roll downhill–containing both my kids, then ages 5 and 7, straight toward a TREE. The events that played out next are described in this post, called The Tree.

The important thing is, I’d connected this traumatic event in August of 1998 to my current obsessive thoughts about tragedy striking and generally always feeling like I’m about to receive some devastating news–and I knew immediately that these unpleasant thoughts are based on guilt and shame. I started to tell my therapist that I always felt guilty that the truck had rolled and that I *could* have killed them. For about 10 years I couldn’t even talk about it, because any time I did, I’d start feeling very dissociated and anxious. My ex knew how to press all my buttons, and knew this was my biggest one. If he wanted to upset me all he had to do was remind me what a rotten mother I was to almost kill my kids that night because he knows I’m still struggling with guilt over my failure to protect them, my failure to be smart enough to know how to park a stickshift.

I’m always very mindful of my body language, voice and gestures when I’m in session, probably as much as my therapist is. These things can tell you a LOT about yourself, not just about others. And I realized as I was making these connections that my body relaxed and I leaned back but my voice became softer and sadder. I was opening up to him in a way I hadn’t before. He just listened, with what appeared to be a great deal of empathy.

somedays

And at some point I felt tears come to my eyes. My eyes just barely glistening, tears not overflowing, but there, making the backs of my eyelids feel warm. I looked off to my left like I always do when I get deep into stuff, and kept on talking. I felt myself opening up and feeling some kind of generic emotion that wasn’t sadness and wasn’t guilt and wasn’t gratitude or joy but was none of these things and yet all of these things. I wanted to share all this with him. I heard myself speak and my voice became thick and my eyes burned again.

There was more, much more, but I’ll end this here because I’m getting emotional writing this. The important thing is, I almost shed tears in front of my therapist tonight. That might not seem like such a big a deal, but for me it was a huge deal because I haven’t been able to cry in front of another human being in about 15 years–which I realized is when THAT happened. (It might have been longer than that though–my memories of the time I was in my horrible marriage are gray, shadowy and even have yawning gaps in places).

What happened tonight is only the proverbial tip of the iceberg–I was seriously fucked up for a very, very, VERY long time, at least since age 4 or 5–but it’s significant because it means the wall in my head that prevents me from really being able to connect to my emotions is developing a few weak spots.