Inside & Outside

My outside doesn’t match my inside.

I can talk about my emotions. How I’ve been feeling. How I’m currently feeling. To everyone else, it looks like I’m okay. Yet in those moments of talking about my feelings, my outside doesn’t reflect how I’m feeling on the inside. There’s a disconnect. And I don’t know why, or even how that happens.

In group today, when it was my turn to share, I told them a little bit about my experience on Friday, and how I’m still in that dark place. In our session last week Tuesday, OT told me I need to open up more in group, and use the time to its fullest. Therapist told me the same thing. So tonight, I tried. It was terrifying and extremely uncomfortable, but I did it. But once again, my true feelings didn’t match the way I spoke about it.

At one point during group (when someone else was talking about something), I had to leave and go to the bathroom because I could feel tears starting up. I don’t know how long I was in there, but I couldn’t stop crying. Then I intentionally this time, shut down those emotions. I walked out like nothing had happened, and went back to the group. Yes, I know. I probably should have stayed. Instead, I was rude and selfish.

One of two things happen when I talk about emotions and what I’m struggling with. Either I feel it all inside, but it doesn’t show on my face, as if I’m two different people. Or I just shut down completely and become numb. And the worst part is that 99% of the time, I don’t do it intentionally. It happens automatically.

Do any of you experience this? And how do I move past it?

I’m still feeling terrible since Friday. All I can think about is death. I see, and feel it all around me. I’m having nightmares. The kind that haunt me, and show up out of nowhere throughout the day. Like flashbacks. I get frustrated. After all, it’s just a dream. It’s not real. But then why does it feel so real? It’s past events, but with a twist. Like memories, mixed in with current fears. Some of these fears are those that I never even knew I had. I’ve also been struggling a lot with anxiety. I’m living off my Benzo’s (I’m not overdoing it- just enough to cope).

I feel disconnected from everyone and everything.

Going Back To The Old Me

Before starting therapy, I pretty much kept to myself. My feelings, my thoughts. They belonged only to me, and I didn’t share them with anyone. I was always the shy and reserved one. It protected me. It worked for me. Yet at the same time, it didn’t really work. It might have sheltered me from rejection, but it also ate me up inside. I tried to open up a few times, but just ended up getting hurt. Further reinforcing that it wasn’t safe to reveal the deepest parts of myself.

Even in primary school, I was a shadow. When I tried to make friends, and join the other children, I’d just get mocked, teased and called horrible names. So eventually I stopped trying. What was the point. I still remember the day I got my first friend. I was eating my lunch on a step, overlooking some children playing. A girl came to sit next to me and asked my name. We shared my lunch, and from that day we became best friends. I think she was the first friend I ever had. I was never allowed to go visit her at home though (my dad was very controlling- “only protecting me” in his words- when I actually needed to be protected from him). Then we moved to a new city again, and I never heard from her, or saw her again. I didn’t want to get attached to anyone again after that, and I don’t know if I ever did, as I can’t remember the next year or two.

I went to go watch the sunset on the beach today. It’s one of my favourite self-soothing practices. Usually it makes me feel better. It brings me peace. I feel at one with nature, and like I’m not alone in this world. But tonight I just felt this deep sadness the entire time. At first I didn’t understand why, and just tried to push it away. To be mindful of the beauty surrounding me. And then it came. Memories of the same way I felt so often throughout my life. Memories of moments where I felt so alone, with so much sadness buried deep, but that I couldn’t express or verbalize. Growing up, I wasn’t allowed to show emotions. Both my dad and then step-mother hated any display of emotion, other than happiness. But I was hardly ever happy, so I had to pretend that I was. When I went to my biological mom every second weekend, I watched my step-dad hurt her, and occasionally my little sisters as well. I couldn’t show my fear and hatred toward him. I couldn’t protect them. I was scared he would hurt them even more, and that he’d hurt me too. But he never did. I think he was scared of my dad. He was very cruel to me though. Men (monsters) like him, usually are. He also hated displays of emotion. It was a trigger for him. So there were many tears left uncried. So much hurt with nowhere to go. So many secrets with no one to tell. That pattern has followed me ever since.

It was only when I started therapy in March last year, that the pattern got interrupted. Opening up to my therapist felt amazing. She didn’t judge, she didn’t tell me to “stop being a baby”, or get angry with me for expressing my feelings. She didn’t punish me. I felt safe with her. Since then, I’ve become more open to more people. Only to a certain extent though. I knew what to share, and what to keep hidden. Every now and then though, I’d become brave and say more than I should.

In group on Tuesday, I was in a bit of a manic state (I had been in that state for a few days already). We had the usual “check in”. I was a bit late, as I had to go pick up a friend, so when I got back to group, the check in was already underway. Other than the usual check in, we also had to pick an animal that represents us, and tell the others why we chose that animal. When it was my turn, and started sharing, I got interrupted by one of the guys. He argued with me about the correct name for the animal I had chosen. I was so embarrassed and just wanted to disappear. I didn’t want to make it known though how I really felt in that moment, so I argued back. And then I just shut down and let the next person share. It’s taken me a while to start opening up in group. But now with this, I feel it’s not okay to do that anymore. I’ll still connect to the few people I’ve really grown to care about, before group, during the break, and afterward. But I don’t want to open up during the group anymore.

Jasmine and I spent the day together yesterday. Usually when I’m with her, we speak openly about our thoughts and feelings as they come up. But this time I couldn’t. I pretended that everything was okay the whole time, that I was happy. I have to pretend with the dad and current step-mother anyway, so it’s easy. Easy to pretend, difficult to deal with internally.

I just don’t want to be vulnerable anymore. My blog is my space to be open, but in the offline world, I want to stay away from that. I had a great therapy session on Wednesday. But then on Thursday, my manic phase was over, and I went straight down into the depths. And since then I’ve been feeling this need to protect myself from the world.

My younger parts, especially, have been struggling. They need me to take care of them, protect, and love them. They can be vulnerable with the adult me. They only need me. This song is my message to them. It just seems to fit.

The Breakdown And Recovery

It happened.

As you know from my previous few posts, I’ve been in a very dark place. Thoughts of suicide overtaking everything, and coming to a head on Friday evening. Obsessive thoughts of death and dying. Over and over again. Pain so intense, memories so vivid. It felt as though I had hit rock bottom. Hearing voices inside my mind telling me to end it. That I don’t belong on this earth. I knew those voices were my own. Frightening visions of a dark figure was also present. Even though it only lasted a second each time, it was terrifying.

I had my plan all mapped out. I even wrote a note, which left me strangely happy in a way. Like a burden had been lifted off my shoulders. It was all going to be over soon. At the last-minute, an image of my therapist’s face flashed in front of me. I heard her voice. I fell to the floor and just cried. A mixture of pain, frustration, and a feeling of comfort and warmth from feeling our connection.

I read a book a few months ago, “Healing from Trauma” by Jasmin Lee Cori. After what happened, I remembered something I had read in that book. So I picked it up again and searched for the part I had in mind. Where she was talking about finding your rock. A person (or even a pet) that you feel connected to enough for them to be a powerful regulating resource. She says that it helps calm the nervous system. That was certainly the case that night. And I saw for myself just how powerful it is.

On Saturday and Sunday, I reverted back to my 20’s. A time in my life that I never want to relive. A time I had vowed to never repeat. But it happened, and I wasn’t aware that it was coming. I didn’t know the signs. I definitely know them now.

Earlier that day (Saturday) I thought about calling my therapist, but decided against it, as I didn’t want to bother her. If I knew then what I know now, I would have called her. Because once it hit, I couldn’t stop it. I couldn’t regulate myself. I was so out of control, that all thoughts of calling my therapist disappeared. I didn’t think about anyone but myself. I was literally unable to bring anyone I know to mind. It was all about me and what was happening in that moment. I wasn’t aware of anything else.

I was reckless, self-destructive, and unintentionally putting other people’s lives in danger. (eg. speeding while drunk). I’m not going to go into detail about everything I did, as I’ve already told my therapist about it. But I will say this, I fucked up. Now that I know the warning signs, I will call my therapist this time, if there is a next time, which I’m going to try to prevent at all costs. Because this can’t happen again. I don’t want to end up destroying my life, or anyone else’s. I don’t want to live with the consequences of my behaviour. It only takes a second to ruin a life.

The difference between this time and my 20’s, was that I realized quickly (2 days instead of years) that I was running away from something. From extreme emotions, pain. Reality. Life. I didn’t have that insight back then. The way I lived my life those years, as well as this time, may have kept me alive, but this kind of behaviour doesn’t serve me, and it’s unhealthy and dangerous.

On Sunday evening, once I had “snapped out of it” I felt horrible. Ashamed. Dirty. Furious with myself. Shock was also mixed in. On Monday, those feelings carried over. I felt the effects in my body as well. I felt nauseous. My stomach was in knots and aching. My nervous system was protesting. It felt like I was in an alternate reality.

I usually have therapy sessions early on a Thursday morning, but I felt that I couldn’t wait that long. So I sent my therapist a text yesterday asking for an earlier session. We arranged it for a few hours later that day. At the beginning of the session I told her that I’m a bad person. She asked whether feeling that I’m a bad person, means that I am? Good point. No one is perfect, everyone makes mistakes and does things they’re not proud of and regret. But that doesn’t make us bad people. Near the end of the session, she said that she’s glad we got together that day, and didn’t wait until Thursday. So was I. This is the second time that I needed a session more than any other time. It did me well. She told me that we could spend the session just talking, but it wouldn’t be effective in the long-term. So she went through an exercise with me, that was really helpful. And it will continue to be helpful. It was a very productive session, and she was very gentle and soft with me. Going into the session, I wanted her reassurance that she wasn’t going to leave me. But the way she spoke to me, made me feel very cared for, and I didn’t need to ask for that reassurance. Because I felt it.

I’m still feeling some of the after effects, but it’s not as intense as it was. I’m trying to practice self compassion.

This all proved to me just how important and vital deep and meaningful connection is for us as humans.

A Long, Hard Week

On Monday morning, after my step grandparents left, I was still in my Sunday good mood. I sent my therapist a text telling her that I’m looking forward to our session on Thursday. That I’m having a good day and have high hopes for the week.

Later that afternoon, I went to get something from the store. When I got home I found a note from my younger step brother, with the words “I’m sorry”. I ran through the house, and outside, calling him. But he was gone.

So many thoughts rushed through my mind at that moment. What did that “I’m sorry” mean? “I’m sorry, but I’m running away” or “I’m sorry, but I’m going to jump in front of a bus”? I was panicking. We phoned all of his friends, everyone we could think of, but no one knew where he was. I was terrified.

For a little background, I don’t see him as a step brother. To me, he’s just my little brother. I love him to bits. He’s very quiet and keeps to himself at home. I’m the only one he opens up to. He’s cried to me (he never cries in front of anyone- always appears calm and strong), he’s told me things that he’s never told anyone. He lets me into his heart. So we have a very close relationship. I’m very protective over him. In our session on Thursday, my therapist said that he is my most significant connection, other than ours. And that’s the truth.

When I realized that he wasn’t there, I was heartbroken and confused. Why didn’t he tell me? He’s told me before that he often thinks about running away, and I told him that he should tell me when and if he does. I know I’m not able to change his mind, that I can’t force him to stay. But I would want to know anyway. I would support him any way I could. Such as bringing him clean clothes when he needs them, etc.

I also felt guilty. If I had just come back from the store sooner, or hadn’t left, could I have done something to stop him? Or at least tell him to let me know every day that he’s safe? I could have asked him where he was going, and told him that I wouldn’t tell my dad. I was so angry with myself, but more so, my dad. They say we shouldn’t blame people for things, but I do blame him. He treats my brother like crap, while he puts my step sister up on a golden pedestal. He left because he hates my dad, and I don’t blame him. I wanted to run away so often while growing up (at least the parts of my childhood that I remember).

I just kept thinking what if something happens to him? What if he’s not okay or safe? I wouldn’t even know about it. Would I ever see him again? This situation was made worse due to a previous experience I had. My first step sister who had been in my life for 13 years also ran away from home. And she never came back. I can’t remember if she had left a note. I can’t actually remember anything about that time, other than one moment where I was walking from one classroom to the next at school, and hoping I would see her at school that day. A while after she left, my step mom also left. And I was scared that my current step mother would take her daughter and also disappear. So this all hit a little too close to home. It triggered me. Flashbacks, old emotions, all rushing to the surface, along with all the current feelings. In other words, a huge mess.

During this time, I found myself becoming protective of my step mom and sister. I focused all my attention on them. Doing things for them, being there for whatever they needed and wanted. Which is a pattern in my life. I push myself and my emotions to the side, in order to take care of others. My OT has a good theory about this, which I’ll mention later in this post.

I didn’t want to go to my session with her on Tuesday, and I didn’t want to attend group either. But I decided that it would be better if I do. Even if it was just to get out of the house and away from the heavy, dark energy. I ended up telling my OT about the situation, even though I initially didn’t want to. She was compassionate and supportive. Let me experience the emotions. She told me that my reactions and emotions were valid. She held space for me. She was everything that I needed someone to be during that time.

I told her how I was trying to be as supportive as possible toward my step family. Obviously I can’t remember every word she said, but it came down to this. She said that she was wondering whether my need to take care of others, and be attentive to their needs and emotions, wasn’t because I don’t want to deal with my own emotions. So I take on others emotions, as it’s easier than dealing with my own. I’ve been thinking about it a lot, and looking at previous times in my life where I did the same thing. It makes so much sense, and I think she hit the nail on the head with that one.

After our session, I had a few minutes before group was due to start, and I wondered whether I should stay for it. I figured I was already there, so I might as well. When I saw my roommate from my clinic stay was there, I knew I wanted to stay.

I don’t really open up much in group. When we do the emotional check-ins, I usually just say it’s been an okay week, or not good, but that I don’t want to talk about it, or I just don’t elaborate. But I did this time. I was so emotionally exhausted by that point, that I felt numb. So that made it easier.

A few of the group members came up to me during the break, telling me that it was nice to have me open up. We have a two-week break from group, and I don’t feel too good about that. It’s my time every week to get away from home and meet up with others who “get it”.

Finally, on Wednesday we heard from my brother. He said that he was coming home on Friday. I was worried that he might not come back on Friday. What if he had just said that? But he did come home. When I saw him, I gave him the biggest hug I’ve ever given anyone, and I didn’t want to let go. He looked so happy to see me too, and hugged me again when I finally let go. When everyone was downstairs, he told me what he’d been up to. And while I wasn’t too happy about some of the things (nothing serious), it’s not my job to parent him. He’s his own person. I obviously didn’t show or let him know that I didn’t approve. All I want is to continue being supportive, and someone he can trust and open up to about anything.

I still feel some after effects of the situation. I guess I’m still a little shaken up about it, even though I’m trying to just let it go. It seems my body hasn’t yet gotten the message that everything is okay. I felt very suicidal on Sunday evening. More than I have in months. To the point that I considered going to the hospital. But I made it through. I’m also experiencing the pain of losing my first step family all those years ago. This whole weekend I felt exhausted. No matter how much I slept, my days were spent feeling in a half asleep state. Even today, I feel like night of the walking dead. Today I spent a few hours with Jasmine (which isn’t awkward anymore- thank goodness), and she commented on how tired I look. Usually people can’t see that, so that’s when you know that it’s bad.

I’m really glad that my little brother is back and safe.

Anniversary Already?

Logging into WordPress on Wednesday, this popped up in my notifications:

Wordpress

Time has certainly flown by. I started this blog when I left my emotionally abusive partner of almost 4 years. I was moving from the city I had called “home” for those years, and driving to the city I’m now living in. It took me 3 days to get here, and two overnight stays at guest houses. It was during the second evening that I decided to start this blog.

I felt so alone during this time. Alone, scared and unsure about what lay ahead. This blog helped me process my feelings and thoughts, and it still does. I’ve never been one to express my emotions to others, or try to explain the thoughts in my head. So this blog has been really good for me. Just getting it all out there is therapeutic.

When I first started writing here, I didn’t think that I would even get one follower or reader, and now I have 324 of you! How did that happen? When I first started getting “likes”, comments and followers, I felt a little overwhelmed and frightened. It suddenly became very real. After all, I was revealing my soul to the world. I was exposed and vulnerable. I like to believe that part of my newfound ability to be more open in expressing myself, has come from writing these posts. Of course, therapy also played a big part in the “new” me.

I’ve always struggled to keep up with anything. I’d always start off excited about something, but then I either get bored, discouraged, or another idea or project would consume my mind. So this is a big achievement for me. I’ve managed to stick it out for a whole year! There have been a few days where I wanted to delete my entire blog and just disappear from the online world. But you guys have given me a reason to not give up on it. Knowing that a lot of you relate and find encouragement in my posts.

I want to thank all of you for the support, encouragement, and inspiration. I consider a lot of you friends and family. You give me the strength to carry on through the darkest days and nights.

I’m also thankful to my therapist for encouraging me to keep up with my blog, and for taking the time to read my posts.

Thank you.

My Friend, Disassociation

Sometimes I need the disassociation. In those moments, I don’t want to ground myself. I want to stay in that safe space. I don’t always want to fight it.

Today was one of those days.

I woke up feeling uneasy. I know the why, and didn’t want to stay there. I didn’t want to feel the emotion. The emotions that came along with it. I didn’t want to see the image that appeared last night during a session with my OT. A session that brought it to the surface again. And now it won’t go away.

I struggled for a few hours this morning with the feelings and the image- a fragment of a memory. I just felt like crying the entire time, but the pain didn’t allow the tears to come. Sometimes the pain can’t get out, while other times it rushes to the surface. At some point I shut down. And I’m glad I did.

I’m currently working at my dad’s business on a temp basis. I help out with a few things here and there.

Sometime during the morning, my stepmom was talking to me and I didn’t realize it until she called my name. She had to repeat the question she had been asking me. She asked me why I look “spacey”, and like I’m half asleep. I didn’t want to explain disassocation to her, so I just told her that I feel half-asleep. I still did my work, but in autopilot mode. And I wanted to be in that mode. Where emotions don’t affect me. Where nothing can touch me. Safe in my bubble, with the world, and the bad, on the outside.

The fog is lifting now. So I’m taking a pill and going to sleep, with the hope that I don’t get any nightmares. I did last night, so I think I deserve a nightmare free sleep. I’ll deal with things tomorrow.

Sometimes disassociation is a gift. A protective friend.

There is a pain so utter that it swallows substance up
Then covers the abyss with trance—
So memory can step around—across—upon it
As one within a swoon goes safely where an open-eye would drop him—
—Bone by bone

~Emily Dickinson

Emotion

I don’t always have the words to express my feelings. During such moments, I either find a song to represent how I’m feeling, or I make collages in Photoshop such as this one.

I search for images that relate to how I’m feeling. Images that I connect with on a deep level, and then add some effects of my own in order to make it more personal.

This image represents how I felt after my previous session, with the intention to share it with my therapist. Just one of my ways to convey my feelings to her. To communicate. Open up. Reach out. I’ve titled it “Emotion”.

Emotion