I really need my therapist right now.

My therapist is out of town until January 12th.

It’s hard to go two whole weeks without seeing him.  Of course, I can call him (he has given me permission to do that) but I always feel like I’m overstepping his boundaries so I try to avoid it unless it’s a real emergency.

I wouldn’t say this is an emergency but I just feel so sad and alone right now.    I’m crying while I write this.  I don’t even know why.   I think all these dreams I’ve been having mean some dark stuff is emerging into consciousness that must be dealt with.  But I have to wait.

What I feel isn’t exactly depression.   It isn’t really anxiety either, but it contains elements of depression and anxiety.    It’s hard to explain, really.  I feel as if I’m on the edge of a meltdown.  The void seems way too close for comfort.  All my usual defenses are gone and I just want to crawl in bed and shut the whole world out.    I might just do that.   Just go to bed early and forget the howling wind outside and the howling wilderness that lives inside me.

Why does my therapist always have to go somewhere whenever I’m in crisis?   I don’t expect anyone to answer that.  It is what it is, but it’s not fair.

Advertisements

Me and my unpopular opinions.

unpopular_opinions

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.

Maybe we should stop trying so hard to be happy.

fake-smile2

We live in a society that demands we always be happy and smiling.    “Negative” emotions are generally unacceptable, and we are told over and over again via pop psychologists and the mass media that constant happiness is not only our birthright, but our responsibility!    People are encouraged to stuff their feelings and wear a smile, no matter how they are really feeling.

Some people are more naturally given to cheerfulness than others, regardless of their circumstances.  We are all different; and those of us who aren’t naturally inclined to be upbeat and perky all the time are made to feel like we are somehow defective and our darker emotions aren’t okay.

So we seek out therapists, read self-help books, recite affirmations, pin up positive-thinking posters, and beat ourselves up if we don’t or can’t conform to the pervasive “don’t worry, be happy” ethos.

But what if not always being happy is actually saner than always being cheerful?  After all, there are a lot of things in the world to get depressed, upset, or angry about.    Acknowledging that bad things happen isn’t being negative; it’s being realistic.   For example, being afraid can sometimes save your life!

positive_thinking_cartoon

As long as you aren’t so depressed you feel like killing yourself or drowning yourself in alcohol or other substances, or can never see the bright side of anything, maybe embracing and accepting dark moods is a more authentic way to live.

Maybe if modern society acknowledged that dark emotions are a normal, non-pathological reaction to many things in life and accepted these emotions as easily as they  accept a perky smile and an “everything’s great!,” those of us who worry that we aren’t “happy enough” would actually begin to feel happier.    Maybe we need to stop trying to force ourselves into a box that doesn’t fit, and learn to embrace our painful feelings instead, and stop comparing ourselves to some ideal that we think we should be.

The world is not perfect and it never will be.  Why should we go through life, then, pretending everything’s perfect or beating ourselves up (and making ourselves more miserable) when we don’t measure up to some “happiness standard”?   It’s fake and it’s only going to make us feel like we’re defective.    Maybe we should just accept ALL our emotions as authentic and stop trying to always hide them away like something shameful.   If you’re happy, by all means, show it, but the emotional spectrum is like the color spectrum–there are many shades and hues, and a world with only one color is the most depressing kind of world I can think of, even if that one color is “happiness.”

Being truly happy isn’t a performance to impress everyone with how “positive” we are; it’s a feeling of genuine well-being brought about by accepting ourselves–ALL of ourselves–as we really are.     If you’re feeling sad or angry or upset, instead of berating yourself for it, accept your feelings as an authentic part of life.

Fear of joy.

fear_of_joy

There was another thing my therapist and I talked about last night, which I forgot to mention in last night’s post.   Another reason why I might have become sad and depressed is because while the inner peace and quiet joy I felt upon returning from my vacation felt wonderful, the pathological part of my mind–the one that obeys the “narrative” I was expected to adhere to for most of my life–fears the emotional openness that joy requires, and also the freedom it makes possible.  That part of me feels “safer” staying confined within its gloomy prison of defenses and avoidance because it’s all it ever knew.

There’s a kind of sadness inherent in intense joy.*   This is very hard to explain, but I think it’s because the emotion is so “big”–bordering on the spiritual.  Maybe “sadness” isn’t quite the right word, but it’s easy to become overwhelmed by too much joy if you’re not used to it.    It’s like looking into the face of God if you haven’t prepared yourself first.  An example of this that many people remember (and found funny because it was) is that guy who made that viral Youtube video of the double rainbow and broke down in sobs because he couldn’t handle how beautiful it was.

To someone who has felt too little joy, and has spent most of their life running away from authentic connection with other people, with your authentic self, with the world, with nature, with the creative impulse, or with the divine (all things that lead to joy), suddenly finding the door to your soul–which has always been safely locked and kept you from being able to experience any emotions other than the survival ones (anger and fear) or the ones having to do with shame (self hatred, shame and guilt)–  flung wide open with the sun streaming in can be overwhelming and even frightening.    It’s a kind of emotional agoraphobia.  I think it’s related to our fear of the unknown.  The type of joy I experienced recently was intense and seemed to have some sort of profound meaning.  I couldn’t decipher what exactly what it all meant, but I knew it was big. Being able to feel something so intense and spiritual required being completely open and vulnerable in a childlike way, something I’ve long protected myself against.

My therapist thinks the defensive, disordered part of me rejected it because it was afraid of its mystery and unknowability–and the requirement of allowing so much childlike openness and vulnerability.  It’s part of the unhealthy narrative I was programmed to adhere to:   Never take emotional risks, don’t walk blindly into the unknown, always know exactly what you’re doing at all times.  Don’t trust. Don’t love anyone or anything too much. Don’t let yourself be too vulnerable.  Keep the door locked tight.  It’s too dangerous not to.

So when the internal narrative finally had enough intense positive emotion and kicked back in to guard against it, my inner child felt grief stricken at the loss of those glorious  feelings and believed the lie that she could never feel that way again because what she had thought was real was merely a bizarre and dangerous delusion suddenly dropped into an otherwise constricted, unfulfilling, but “safe” life.

*****

* There’s also a kind of joy inherent in certain types of sadness (NOT depression), but I won’t elaborate on that in this post.

Mindfulness: balance and joy.

joy

An reader of this blog emailed me today with a question:

Do you feel you have found some kind of balance and joy in your life despite your personality disorder (BPD in my case)?

My reply:

I had to think this over a long time, because joy is an emotion that still eludes me most of the time.   I spend so much of my life wallowing in depression and anxiety, and sometimes boredom or irritation.  Joy seems like a foreign country only other people get to go to.

But I’m not a total stranger to it, not anymore.

So yes, I have, far more so than I ever did before I started all this work on myself (meditation, prayer, mindfulness, writing, and God–oh yes, and therapy!). For the first time in my life, I’m actually learning what I want, and who I am, and the mindfulness skills that always eluded me before are becoming so much easier. I haven’t raged (in an out of control, BPD way) in almost 2 years. Starting the blog got the ball rolling (and this is why I’ve been so annoyingly adamant about you writing down your feelings).

More and more, I’ve been experiencing moments–not many, but some–of pure joy. And you know what? That joy doesn’t come from good fortune, winning the Lotto, getting a new car, or people admiring you. It doesn’t come from anything from outside of you. It comes from yourself, from your true self, the one hiding in the shadows. This joy is so sublime and almost spiritual—so hard to explain. Okay, here’s a way to explain what I mean. It’s a joy that makes you feel almost like you’re limerent, only not limerent about a person but limerent about everything! Momentarily you just love everything. Maybe it’s the serotonin or dopamine or whatever, but I suppose it’s similar to an Ecstasy high. But it’s not a drug–the loving, expansive feeling is natural. It’s also spontaneous. You can’t plan for it. It just happens out of the blue, when you least expect it.

But there are things you can do that will make it more likely to happen. Do something you really enjoy. But it can’t be a passive activity,like reading or watching TV. It must involve connection of some kind, either with others or the world. There must be something you really enjoy—being with animals, being in nature by yourself, meditation, prayer, making music, painting or dancing or singing. If you’re an extrovert, be quietly with a friend. Take a long walk with them. Creativity opens the door to connection; so does quietly being with others or in nature.

You might be so overcome with pure, sublime emotion it could bring tears, especially since you seem like an emotional person to begin with–or maybe that emotion is just more accessible to you now than ever before. Use the grief you feel and paint, write about it, or sing about it. Sit and just observe what the grief (and the dissociation you’ve described) does to your body and perceptions. Give it a color or a name. Remind yourself it’s an emotion you feel, but it is NOT you. My therapist told me to imagine my feelings as things separate from myself, and that made it easier to allow me to feel them fully.

I still can’t cry in therapy not much anyway, and that annoys the crap out of me, because I want to so much. I feel like I need to sob in his arms and just have him hold me and give me the parental, nurturing love I never got when I needed it most.

I hope that helps answer your question, and I think it’s important you asked because it shows you want to embrace your authentic self, the one that connects and feels.

Why my therapist rocks.

cantfakeawesome

How awesome is my therapist?  Let me count the ways.

Actually, I won’t do that.   I’ve already described in many other posts why he totally rocks.   I don’t think I’m idealizing how great he is.  Well, maybe just a little, but I think it’s pretty normal.

I’m just going to describe one of the many reasons why he’s so awesome, because this is something that happened last night.

He’s not afraid to show his vulnerability.  He’s not afraid to show me he has emotions.   This helps me, because it makes it safer for me to express my own buried emotions.  I never had a therapist who did that before, and I think that’s why my other therapists could never get through to me and I’d eventually quit.

So what happened was this.   He came out of his office as usual to greet me, but he did something a little different than usual.  Normally, he just smiles at me and tells me he’s glad to see me (and I know he really is), then leads me into the room, and pulls up his chair so he’s facing me about three feet away.  He has never laid a hand on me, but puts the least amount of distance between us I will allow.

Last night, he smiled but his smile looked sad.   He looked tired and a little pale.  He sighed and sat down in the chair on the other side of the end table in his waiting room.  He said, “You don’t mind if I decompress for a minute, do you?”

“No, of course not,” I said, surprised.   I didn’t really know what else to say.   I stared at him, waiting, and somewhat intrigued.   He was resting his head in his hands, elbows on knees.  I wanted to give him a hug, but I didn’t.

He looked at me sheepishly.  “Difficult session,” he said.  Then he got up from the chair and said “Alright, I’m okay now.”   I followed him inside.

That might sound weird or even unethical.   After all, some people think a therapist should not share their emotions with a client, especially if those emotions involved another client. But I never see the client that comes in ahead of me.  They go out a different door than I come in.   I don’t even know the client’s gender.

My therapist has shown vulnerability at other times too.  Once or twice, he got teary-eyed.  Not crying or actual tears rolling down his face (that would be awkward and I might be tempted to run), but I could tell what I was saying made him a little emotional.   He also tells me he looks forward to our visits. I don’t think there are any romantic or sexual feelings, though I could be wrong.   I just think he’s more open than most therapists about the way he feels, and I think that’s what makes him so good at what he does.

My therapists’s willingness to show vulnerability has a few benefits for me:

—  It makes me trust him and hence, be more willing to show my own vulnerability.   I simply can’t let my emotions loose if I’m dealing with a block of wood who does nothing but stare wordlessly at me and writes things on pad of paper.

—  He shows empathy for me, which helps me feel empathy for my true self (inner child), and this self-empathy then expands toward others, so I become a more empathic person.

— I feel like sometimes he models emotion for me.   For example, if I’m angry but am dissociated from that anger and can’t really feel it, he picks up on it and models anger.  Not at me, but toward whatever it is he thinks is making me angry.    Like, one time I was talking about the time my dad stole the little picture booklets I had drawn when I was about 7 or 8; these little journals were meant for no eyes but my own.  I felt violated by that, but wasn’t able to feel the anger. I kept making excuses for my dad and saying it shouldn’t have bothered me.  My therapist actually looked angry and said, “I don’t care if you’re mad at him or not, I’m mad at him for violating your boundaries like that.”   After that I was able to experience the anger I felt and work through that.

Whether what he’s doing is intentional or not doesn’t matter.  What he’s doing is working with me. He’s an empath who holds the key to the buried parts of my mind that no one could even come close to unlocking.

Hurts so good.

hurts_so_good

Remember when you were a kid and had a loose tooth, how good it felt to wiggle it with your tongue, even though it bled and hurt like the dickens?  Yet you HAD to keep doing it, because it felt GOOD.

Or remember that scab you just had to pick even though you knew it would bleed and hurt?

Happy feelings can be like that for some of us.  Have you ever been so moved by something, or so touched, or so filled with joy it actually hurt and made you want to cry?

Having been so shut off from my emotions for so many years,  I wasn’t used to feeling anything other than dreary, numb despair, an unnamed dread that something terrible was about to befall me, occasionally relieved by a sudden, irrational rage.

Lately I’ve been experiencing brief moments of sublime, positive emotions.   Flickers of joy (not glee, but real joy), feeling moved or incredibly touched, especially when I’m in therapy.   My therapist helps bring out these feelings in me, and I’m enjoying exploring these unfamiliar but wonderful emotions.  But sometimes they are just so intense and that intensity hurts.   Sometimes even the beauty of them…hurts.

Why would something so human and life-affirming make me feel almost sad?  Is it because I don’t trust these feelings, or don’t trust being vulnerable to feeling them?  Or is it because I know how fleeting such feelings are, and will only be replaced with the unpleasant feelings I’ve grown used to?   Or do they hurt because my soul is unfolding, and in so doing, is breaking down the walls that bound it for so long?  Are these just growing pains?   Will I ever be able to experience these sublime emotions without sadness and pain?

Why a cold, detached therapist wouldn’t work for me.

Broken-Open-Heart
Broken Open Heart by Cari Pier

I have a therapist who is highly ethical and vigilant of boundaries. He has shared next to nothing about his personal life with me, unless it was somehow necessary to divulge something for therapeutic purposes. An example of this was telling me the reason why he has to reschedule some of our upcoming visits. He knew I felt jerked around (I told him so last session) and he was empathetic enough that he felt he needed to tell me it was due to his mother’s recent death, in which some financial matters need to be resolved, which require him to leave town to take care of these matters with other family members.

I was grateful to him for being sensitive enough to consider my feelings, and empathetic enough to know I needed to “have a reason” for the sudden schedule changes. In the months I’ve been seeing him, it’s been almost uncanny the way he seems to know how I am feeling about something, even sometimes before I’m aware of it. This shows me he has a high level of empathy, and I think high empathy is a requirement for the type of therapy we’re doing to be really effective, because it requires emotional attunement.

A few people have told me they’ve been concerned because of a recent post where I said my therapist has told me he likes me and looks forward to our sessions. Of course, I like it and find it highly validating that he said those things, but popular thought has it that to be “professional,” a therapist must be cold and detached and that any admission of personal feelings for a client, no matter how benign, must be somehow suspect.

That’s the stereotypical view of what a therapist must be like. A cold, detached, Cyborg in a white coat, writing everything down in a notebook and remaining stony faced no matter how emotional the patient gets. Maybe he rubs his beard and murmurs “very interesting!” while writing down everything.

I would do terribly with such a therapist. I would never get any better. Because I suffer from bad early attachment and a lifetime of trauma beginning in infancy, I have trouble trusting anyone or allowing myself to get close to anyone. I entered therapy for many reasons, not least of which is my difficulty in feeling my emotions fully and my near inability to connect with anyone in a meaningful way. Being so emotionally detached from others and myself has turned my life into a sterile, joyless desert. It’s sapped all the color out of my life, to the point where every day seemed much like the last, without anything to look forward to, or anything really even worth remembering. I wanted to change that. I wanted to be able to feel again, only tempered by the wisdom of my years so I wouldn’t have to shut myself off again. Only someone who could serve as a kind of surrogate parent and renurture me to a point where I could begin to trust again and share my deepest feelings, using the therapeutic relationship as a kind of template, would be able to help me achieve this.

Can you imagine a baby being “nurtured” by a cold, detached parent, who never mirrored them and stayed six feet away from them at all times? Who never cried with them, laughed with them, or picked them up and held them? That child would probably grow up to have PTSD or a personality disorder. Well, if my therapist is acting as my surrogate parent (and I am VERY much a small child and even a baby in my sessions), being cold and detached would just re-traumatize me! Of course he isn’t going to pick me up and hold me against him (as much as I sometimes might desire that), because there are certain boundaries it would be unethical for him to cross. But he is sensitive and empathic, and doesn’t hesitate to use these qualities to facilitate my healing.

During our sessions, he has done the following things (besides the compliments described in an earlier post) that some might think are “unprofessional”:

He moved about three feet closer to me at a point where he correctly perceived that I needed to feel closer (he sits about three feet in front of me now instead of the six feet at first, and leans forward when he thinks I need more closeness. He has never physically touched me.

Once or twice when I described a very upsetting incident from my past, he got teary eyed. In one recent session, he rubbed his eyes (discreetly) and I noticed they were damp. This was barely noticeable, not over the top so it didn’t make me uncomfortable or make me feel I had to “take care of my therapist.” (crying openly or sobbing would NOT have been appropriate and would have weirded me out in a big way). But it was noticeable enough that I felt mirrored and empathized with–and cared about. This was immensely helpful because it was only one session after this happened that I was finally able to let go and cry in front of him (which is necessary to my healing). I haven’t been able to cry in front of another person, even a family member, in years. I almost wonder if he did this on purpose, to “model” that sort of emotional expression for me so I could do it myself. But even if it was, I know it was based in actual empathy and not just an act.

He’s said things like, “I feel angry at him right now for hurting you that way” (referring to my narcissistic abusive ex) when I was describing the ways he’s abused me. He said this in an angry way too, and I felt enormously grateful to him for being so empathetic and feeling angry WITH me instead of letting me feel it all alone. Again, I doubt this was “acting.”

He laughs with me all the time, which I find beautiful and validating.

He may have an emotional, sensitive temperament, but if that is the case, I don’t find anything wrong with him using that to facilitate therapy. Almost all of the things I described are just him mirroring my own feelings, sometimes anticipating them before I can feel them consciously, and that gives me the courage to explore them further and let myself experience them. Not once has he violated my boundaries because he’s also empathetic enough to know how far he can go with this without going too far. It’s a delicate balance. This fine-tuning to my emotional needs makes me feel safe. I’m a young child in session and I’ve noticed my voice even takes on a childlike cadence. As my surrogate parent, he is simply doing what should have been done by my own birth parents: mirror me, validate me, and empathize with me. He’s teaching me that exploring my feelings is not only okay, but it’s beautiful.

We have a strong connection, but I realize it’s only a template. Just as a child growing up will eventually leave home and find others to connect with as an adult, eventually I’ll (hopefully) be able to transfer my new, healthy attachment feelings (it’s been theorized that even in adults, such mirroring by the therapist actually helps the client build new neural pathways) onto others and finally achieve genuine and mature emotional closeness with other human beings. I’m still just a little kid who’s trying to grow up. I need a detached, chilly therapist like I need a hole in the head.

So there are two possibilities  for what’s really going on here: (a) I found a nearly perfect therapist who suits my needs; or (b) my therapist is a raging narcissist who’s also an actor worthy of an Academy Award and is just doing these things to gain my trust before he proceeds to turn it all against me.   I think I’ve become good enough at noticing red flags that I’d suspect something fishy or feel uncomfortable if that were the case.

I think this is probably a turning point for me.

THIS IS GOING TO BE LONG. I AM SORRY.

I have so much to say right now but I can’t because I’m in shock (a good kind). I had a sudden breakthrough that explains everything or a lot anyway. I know I have a lot of things to work on and probably a lot more traumatic incidents from childhood but I remembered this and it is a biggie, maybe a core memory that got occluded (though not entirely blocked, just not FELT until tonight). Since I can’t write normally I’m just going to do it as a list of events right now. I can’t even see straight because the tears keep rolling.

A few things to keep in mind…
1. It did happen when I was around 6 (an age which I have referred to over and over again in this blog, based on a “feeling”)
2. It was because of my mother — now I can see exactly what she was trying (maybe unconsciously because of her own issues) to do to me because of the kind of child I was.
3. It’s interesting that I mentioned I feel more emotionally vulnerable when I’m sick — you will understand why if you read all this. (I do not believe it was Munchhausen’s by Proxy however)
4. My true self / inner child that I pictured a few weeks ago as one of those big eyed children paintings from the 1960’s could not be more perfect as a visual of the child I used to be.
5. I have always been an HSP and that may explain the abuse and the chain of events that led to my shutting off almost ALL my feelings. That’s a complete lie because that sensitive child was always INCREDIBLY strong– or had the potential to be… but it was squelched.

Timeline of what happened to me.

Here is the chain of events as they unfolded. I may be missing some; I’m overwhelmed in every good way so my brain isn’t working quite right but I also feel incredibly blessed because I think God stepped in and made this happen because I was ready. I think it’s a kind of miracle, an Easter gift because I reached out to God in my moment of terror and pain (which only lasted about one hour) and also asked for forgiveness of my serious and rather frequent doubts. I think I’ll question my faith less now, though I can’t promise I won’t still have doubts and fall short of perfect faith. (

1. I was in a very good mood today though still feeling poorly from the flu bug I got a week ago (from my therapist — oh, the irony!) I came home and made a few posts. I felt excited for my friend Mary whose band is doing so well and they have a new song that’s getting lots of Youtube views. I talked to my son who will be visiting for 4 days the first week of next month. The weather was perfect in every way and I took some photos.

2. Around 8 PM I started to feel very achy and feverish. At first I thought it was just the virus giving me a last minute “finger” before it finally exited my body. I took some Tylenol and drank a large glass of orange juice with about 1000mg of vitamin C and made some tea.

3. An hour later, I felt much worse. I had bad chills, shaking and could hardly stand. I felt dizzy and a little delirious. Even though the evening is warm, even turning the heat up to full blast wasn’t helping at all and I felt my fever continue to climb. I tried to take it but kept dropping the thermometer, but I know it had to be very high. I tried to get warm but could not. I took some deep breaths but all that did was make my hands go numb and make me start coughing up residue from the bug. I started to feel nauseous. I tried to stand up and couldn’t keep my balance; and fell back into bed. I tried to get comfortable but could not. Thoughts of pneumonia played through my head. Maybe I was going to die. I’m terrified of dying. Maybe it was finally going to happen. I was going to die before I ever lived.

4. I panicked and dissociated badly. I felt like I was out of my body. I bit my hands and whimpered to hold back the panic. What the hell was happening to me?

5. I thought about going to the hospital but decided to turn to God instead. I shut my eyes tight and prayed and prayed and prayed. I begged forgiveness for having such weak faith. I begged him not to let me die. I wasn’t ready yet.

I didn’t know it yet, but I was experiencing a somatic reliving of past events.  Freud called this phenomenon “conversion.”

Transported into the abyss

6. I had a sudden image of myself as a 6 year old little girl, weak and frail and pale like the picture of the child in the painting. I lay in my parent’s bed, watching cartoons on TV, all my Little Golden books and various puzzles and games and toys spread around me. She fed me soup and crackers and cookies and fussed over me and stroked my hot forehead tenderly. She looked genuinely concerned. I remember how I craved this type of attention.
These were truly the only times I felt loved by her.

7. This was not an isolated incident, this happened many times over. I was a sickly child, who suffered from frequent colds, high fevers, many allergies, all the childhood illnesses, excruciating ear-aches that left me partially deaf in my left ear to this day. I was taken to doctors who gave me allergy shots but could find nothing else seriously wrong with me.

8. In other areas too, I was encouraged to be weak or fragile. Until I was around ten, I was bullied at school and given sympathy at home. My parents used to call the bullies’ parents and tell them to leave me alone, which only made the bullying worse (kids hate other kids whose parents snitch to other parents). I wonder if this was somehow known to them. If so, it was a very covert form of gaslighting. I was chided as being “ungenteel” and “acting low class” anytime I acted too “tough” or talked back or stood up for myself, or came back with a good snarky comeback.

9. Gradually I stopped being able to be anything but a docile codependent (until my teens when I pathetically rebelled and began to act out against my parents and built a tough (and quite scary at times both to me and others) rage and an overlying emotional shell but that’s a whole different topic even though the roots of that were from the same source).

10. Gradually I got sick less, but my emotional “weakness” became more painful and dysfunctional to me as I approached my teen years. After a while of being given “sympathy” for being over-emotional, “hysterical” (my mother’s word for me) and fragile, it was gradually ripped away and I was told to “sink or swim” with no emotional tools to navigate waters that were now way too dark and deep.

11. I was discouraged in subtle ways for doing things on my own that showed strength or independence. Drawing pictures and writing little books and playing with dolls and even being a good student was “okay” because a weak child could still be good at these things. At age 11 or 12 I wanted to join the swim team and while I wasn’t outright forbidden, I was told I wouldn’t like it because “it’s too competitive for you,” or worse, putting words in my mouth (“you KNOW you don’t like competition!”) I joined anyway but had self doubts all that summer. It was still a positive experience, but not nearly enough to rebuild my sense of self and ability to be an achiever. There were many other things I was also discouraged or even forbidden from doing, because of the tough image I wasn’t allowed to display. I won’t list them all here but trust me, this was a constant in my late childhood.

This is getting too long, so let me wrap this up.

12. I remembered all this and realized God had given me the gift of clarity and further insight into my mental illness (whatever it really is). I asked and it was given. I began to cry. Then an amazing thing happened. The fever broke and the physical pain disappeared! I suddenly felt a lot better!

13. Emotions are energy moving through or out of the body, and I realized what happened. My body RE-LIVED (truly FELT, not just thought about) the somatic experience of being a helpless, sick, feverish child. I suddenly had a memory of myself feeling that sick as a young child, like I was going to die, and being reassured and fussed over by my mother. Sickness and weakness was the only thing I was ever truly mirrored or emotionally rewarded for. All my life I’ve been craving that kind of care but I’ve run away from it too, because it proved to be dangerous. I had nothing to replace it with.

14. Approaching adolescence, I was no longer “rewarded” either at home or at school for being sickly/weak. The tables were cruelly turned on me and I was told to sink or swim. But inside, I was in excruciating pain.

15. I became codependent, searching for the “perfect parent” who I never really had.

16. Over the years, my pain got more deeply buried and I further added to this massive defense. At a certain point I became unable to feel much of anything. The stakes were too high.

17. When I was abandoned by family of origin, it was for the very same things I was doted on for as a young child (being a “weak loser”) How crazymaking and evil is that?  Inside, I always felt that way (and my life circumstances reflected that).  But on the outside, I had to hide my “weakness” to survive.   It never worked out too well for me though.

17. Everything I’ve been talking about and feeling in therapy lately was leading to this discovery. I have a long way to go. It’s incredibly confusing. But this is a beginning. I feel like now some real heavy duty work can be done.

18. I feel physically wonderful right now. My goal is clearer– to regain my HSP-ness but with mindfulness and wisdom and control (not a false self!)

ETA: I still feel unwell today, but nowhere near as bad as last night for that hour I thought I was dying.   This stupid bug does not want to go away!

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.