Posts Tagged ‘therapy’

**frank talk about my head horrors. also, assume I’m okay with my therapists and their opinions and I’m confident it’s the right choice.**

EMDR has not been a roaring success. Or maybe it has. On my second visit, we tried using two handheld vibrating eggs (which I had trouble not equating to questionable sex toys) and headphones. The eggs buzzed alternately in time with an unpleasant chime in alternating ears. The chimes made me think of ambulances in foreign countries which made me think of hospitals in foreign countries (my experience being limited to two other countries, to be fair), which made me think of hallways in all hospitals, which made me think of dying people in hospitals, and from there it was an easy jump to code whatever color, morgues, and a capital letter Panic Attack.

I took off the headphones, tried again, and shortly after completely crumpled. I thought it was pretty intense but assumed that was me being trapped in my brain until one therapist talked to the other (I KNOW, TWO) and recommended stopping in favor of a gentler approach less likely to cause a total mental break. They called it something else probably, but it sounded like that, and it’s scary as fuck to think that I can’t even trust my own brain to cooperate.

That said, I suddenly spend less time spontaneously seeing decaying corpses in front of me at meetings, on the sidewalk, at the dinner table, next to me in bed. And, as I reflect, it seems that probably wasn’t normal. At least, not as many as three times an hour, which adds up to approximately 42 visits to a crowded, un-airconditioned, steaming hot, third world morgue each day. I suppose that COULD break a person. I’m down to a dozen or so, of a more general dead body sort. I get to see my yellow-grey father at least twice a day of course, not exactly the way I’d choose to remember him; more than a few random bodies on the side of the road; and, the cool, sterile, final-ness of a CSI morgue which, given the alternative, is a gold star imagination path.

Maybe it’s because we’ve had the memorial for my dad. I wasn’t particularly attached to his ashes (after all, he and I spend a lot of unpleasant time together every day) but I have been hopeful that this will give my mom a place to move forward from and provide some closure for my sisters. I’m sure on a subconscious level the end of the dying process had an impact. At the third EMDR appointment, we skipped the vibrating eggs (ha) again (see above concern about breakage) and talked in depth about what continuing could mean and the alternatives. I’m pretty sure trying again is the right decision and she feels confident that I have the skills to “keep myself safe” which sounds flaky but makes sense in the sense that I have a stockpile of tools to physically reground myself in the present and not end up lost among the flies which *can* happen but isn’t likely in her super lovely office.

I’m worried though. Worried that my wife secretly thinks I’m a disaster. Or worse, that she’s afraid of me. At best, I hope it’s only that she wishes I’d dealt with this sooner or that she hadn’t married me. She did it twice though, so she’s pretty much lost her opportunity to complain. I worry she doesn’t understand that the reason I’m telling more stories about the good times (when I can remember them) is because I’m trying to repair all the broken places. I’m afraid she’ll think I’m stuck in the past or making something out of nothing. I’m worried she goes to sleep at night wondering when I’ll wake her up with a nightmare next. I’m worried she thinks this foever will be a weight around our collective necks.

I’m also worried about myself. What happens when my wife and I are doing something more…well, you know…and I get an unwelcome and unrelated memory? Are my personal tastes in that area because I need intensity to rule out any other thoughts? And is that bad? And does that keep us from connecting frequently, because what I want is not what she wants? I suppose I could leverage my not inconsiderable time in therapy to address this but it’s embarrassing and I never remember to think this clearly (well, it’s clear to me) in the office.

Turns out I have about four more paragraphs of anxieties, none of which are the actual trauma on repeat in my brain, all of which relate to my wife, my work, and my relationships. I feel ridiculous for spelling them out, so I won’t go further. Here’s hoping that it was the EMDR, as the therapist suggests, and that a second attempt will keep helping.


More Therapy Less Counseling

Posted: 16 June 2017 in therapy

Well I thought I was going to tackle some EMDR. I didn’t. Mostly because I spent the better part of the hour reminding myself to breathe so that I could talk so that I could be honest because I’m not taking time and spending money to still be having night terrors. And I was honest, more honest than I usually am talking about the scary stuff. I guess honest isn’t the right word. Open, probably. I don’t lie but I do withhold. Lots.

And lots.

And lots.

I had to breathe so I could ask questions and say the really dumb stuff, to get it out of the way. This trauma probably isn’t bad as far as trauma goes. This isn’t something that needs therapy. It’s a waste of her time. I’m preventing her from helping me because I can’t seem to get my shit together, unclench my fists, breathe the color back into my lips. I suppose you know the answers to those and of course you know that she did, too. I also know the answers but that’s what crazy is. It knows the answers and it doesn’t care.

This therapist is the sort of smart that works for me. Frank, compassionate, confident. She was certain that this would happen (though my kind of smart also includes a purposeful lie here and there) and that we wouldn’t be doing any explicit EMDR that visit. She defined therapy as different than counseling. She said that we were still doing the work, if if it didn’t appear that we were doing the work. I could tell she believed this fully although I’m still not sure. She told me that my story had haunted her and then she assured me that it was okay to have told her, that it didn’t damage her, but that this is big and terrible trauma and while it isn’t going away, she and I together can stop it from screaming into my ears.

The last week has been better. Fewer nightmares but more details. The color of the shirt on one dead child, dressing him in the hall of the morgue as he flopped, no, stood stiffly, somehow both, between two men. Blue. The room full of body-sized boxes stacked to the ceiling, empty but shiny silver. Not what an American coffin looks like on TV. The demonstration of the seal and the sympathetic but graphic explanation of the function of the plug to drain bodily fluids. I wish I’d listened more carefully. You’d think that if I was going to be stuck with this horror, I’d at least get some good writing material out of it.

My next visit is Friday and I’ve given myself one monstrous task before then. This trauma is not nothing. Anything that can strip a person of part of themselves is not nothing. I will believe that and treat it with respect.


It’s Not in the Bag

Posted: 7 June 2017 in therapy
I am struggling to breathe. My heart is racing over in over in short bursts all day long. Even when I think I’m focused, or calm, or even bordering on relaxed (though let’s be honest, lately relaxed means something entirely different than the actual definition of the word). This isn’t grief over the loss of my dad in the sense that I need his presence or miss the role he played in my life. You can argue with me, but I have so much else, I believe wholeheartedly that I’ve handled those specific things well enough. My pounding heart tells me there is so much else.
My relationship with my mom, of course. It’s a lot, of course. Our connection is frayed and knotted together, different textures and itchy, abrading, too rough to hold. I don’t like it, I’m not strong enough to sever it, and I’m too practical – every so often you wish you had a piece of rope and anything will do, as long as you have it.
My relationship with my colleagues and professional commitments. Suddenly I feel like my work was less important that it was. Maybe that change was coming before my dad died. I feel like it happened when I wasn’t looking, while I was too distracted to try to catch the rudder before it turned. I feel like others have taken on my responsibilities and my value is reduced because I prioritized my family over my work. I feel unduly punished and taken advantage of by people I’d have considered above it.
My relationship with activism and my own identity as a highly privileged person who is shockingly (to myself) fragile. I’m angry about that and while I want to fight and advocate and resist, I have needed to rely on others to do it. I’m ashamed of that and I know I need to do better.
My relationship with death. I hold a lot every day and I’ve fit it into a sloppy, ripped bag in my brain where it regularly leaks and smells and leaves stains I have to scrub for days. My chief coping skill with so many other things is to write. Sometimes it’s in my head. Scrolling words I don’t share. Sometimes it’s here or on an ever-unpublished note between meetings. I do not write about the things in the bag. I don’t acknowledge the bag except to constantly clean around it. The closest I’ve gotten is a Facebook message to a former teacher who publishes raw works about witnessing the death of his friends in the Vietnam War. His advice was to write it down, even if others read it who can’t unknow what they’ve read. I’ve tried, here, I can’t. It’s not so I can keep it in the bag. I just…can’t.
I’m spending a lot of energy and committing intellectual space to take each of these relationships and find a resolutions. I’m also seeking my courage which is pitifully lacking. Most of these are daily pursuits. I can’t always look my shame in the face. I can’t manhandle my work environment minute to minute when I can focus on my emotional reaction to those minutes. I can’t look in the bag. The contents of the bag look at me. Death doesn’t care what I’m doing or what other things I’m tackling. The things in the bag prefer dreamtime, the moments when I think I’m on a break from this work, and undermine the accomplishments I make in any other area. The bag dines on my confidence.
That’s bullshit.
Tomorrow I’m going to the new therapist to tackle some EMDR. I’m hopeful but it’s weak hope. I’m scared and anxious and (there goes my heart). I don’t have the required safe space I’m supposed to have discovered by now. I don’t know what this looks like and I didn’t (was unable to chose not to) do any research about the technique. I told myself when I tried that it was “confidence in my therapist” or “a commitment to avoiding misinformation” It was probably more of the same though, more of my inability to navigate my brain with the bag. I have to go to work afterward. It’s a tangle.
I’m terrified.

I’m that person.  The person who cancels.

I have the BEST of intentions.  Really.  I want to see you.  I want to hang out.  I want to laugh and spend time and celebrate our wonderfulness.  And so I say YES!  Yes I want to see you and come to your house and stay up to all hours loving life.  YES!

But I’m going to cancel.  Watch me.  It will happen three out of four times and the fourth time is just cause I’m feeling guilty.  24 hours before I’m supposed to come I get paralyzed.  I can’t do it.  I dread coming to your house.  I feel like I might die.  I know I’ll have a good time, I know you’ll be a magnificent host.  I’m sure I’ll even be charming.  But I feel so much better if I don’t come.  Like a test I haven’t studied for being cancelled.  Like a test for a class I’ve never been to being cancelled.  Relief of the holy kind.

It’s not anxiety exactly.  My palms don’t sweat and my heart doesn’t race.  It’s just that when you asked me I really did want to come.  REALLY.  And then when it’s time to be there, I really don’t want to go.  REALLY.  There seems to be no strategy for this except to say no in advance and apologize after.  This would be easier if I’d have the good sense to say no when you ask, but when you ask, I want to, I do.

I’d go somewhere to fix this, but I’d probably cancel.


Posted: 2 November 2009 in observations
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I started seeing an acupuncturist.  I mean really started – just one visit so far.  Apparently, she let loose seven dragons and, considering I didn’t even know I had any dragons, it was very pleasant.

She was a likable lady.  I’ve had mixed results with therapists and doctors of all sorts in the past and it’s always a delight to find someone who is likable from the first instant.  I had hoped she would be as sincere, upbeat and professional as her voice sounded on the telephone and I was delighted to find she was.  Given my typical reaction to white coats (not that she was wearing one) things went very well.

I’m trying acupuncture for a billion reasons, not least of which are the nasty migraines and incessant nightmares.  D and I would both like to get a good nights sleep.   The first session was a long two hours – the first spent exhausting my physical, mental and emotional history and the second pushing needles.  The history was unremarkable, except for the disturbing self-realization that I’m gathering soul scars as I get older.  I deeply enjoyed the second half.

Shedding my pants and socks, I had a lovely high table to lay on with sheets and blankets.  She used seven needles (to release the seven dragons that fight the body’s demons – an initial treatment done once) and put three in my stomach, one in each thigh and one on each foot (or was it ankle?)  She then came back at regular intervals to twist the needles a quarter turn until she’d gone all the way around.  Sounds a little brutal but wasn’t remarkable at all.

The sensations during treatment were remarkable.  As she put each needle in, it felt as though someone was gently pressing down on my back from the inside.  It was a heavy, pleasant feeling.  I’m not afraid of needles, and these are so small, they barely created a sensation other than the weight in my center.  Occasionally, the needles felt cold or radiated tingles, but for the most part, I was unaware that they were there.

During the times she was out of the room, I concentrating on breathing as she suggested.  At first my mind was busy, flying all over the place.  When she came back into the room and I mentioned the commotion, she said I might try being a river bed with the thoughts flowing above.  That worked beautifully and I felt as though I was glued to the table when she came back into the room again.  I couldn’t have moved if she had asked.  I was cemented to the table.  After that I slowly spun upward again until I was ready to be on my way by the time she finished.  I don’t think I’ve been so completely relaxed in a long time.

I’ll be heading back again every week for six weeks to see if the acupuncture has any effect.  Folks have been suggesting I try for years and I’ve always been willing but never motivated to spend the extra time and money.  At this point, no new solutions are coming from the traditional medical community and I’ve always been at home with alternative techniques, so it’s well worth the try.  Here’s to hoping the dragons swallow the nightmares.


Posted: 21 October 2009 in observations

The months have been getting away from me.  Spring flew past in a blur of planting a new garden, learning a new neighborhood and owning a new house.  Then the start of the academic year, thousands of colleges kids coming back to a new start, and a change in the work routine brought on by living in a new place.  Slowly, work got busier as the students discovered the library and D and I spent more time focusing on things running smoothly at work, home life somewhat forgotten.  Right now, in some ways, our focus has turned inward and we’ve let everything else fall by the wayside.  It was a luxury to be able to do that.

My parents arrived last week to stay for a couple of weeks.  Refocusing has been more rough than expected.  We’ve been sucked into the whirlwind of having three extra people in the house.  My grandmother is elderly (very) and my parents are in their sixties.  They all arrived coughing and wheezing and have been slow to recover.  Sick or not, I’m reminded that my mother and father love each other very much.  I hoe D and I have that, I thing we do.  And it’s always amazing to see my grandmother again.  Every time I see her, I feel like it might be the last time.

All this introspection has left me sleepless.  What will happen when my parents die?  And worse, since most folks don’t simultaneously pass, what will life be like for my mother alone?  How will my father manage without her?  How will he cope with the grief?  Will she go crazy in that empty, cold house?  Who will chop the wood when he’s gone?  And that, accompanied by the inward focus of recent weeks, leaves me panicking over D and life without her.  It spirals on, of course, and soon I’m thinking about our dog, how wonderful he is and how we’ll get, at best, nine more years with him and then I’m sitting wide-eyed in the basement while D sleeps.

I know there are chemical reasons for this.  I haven’t been working much since my parents have been in town, I’ve been sleeping more and eating differently and my schedule is thrown off.  I know that this alters the way I think and that this panic and anxiety isn’t me.  I’m not a basement sitter, basement dweller, tears dripping from the corners of my eyes when I pretend to sleep.

I’m lucky to be able to afford to be so self-centered.

No, you can’t.

Posted: 30 August 2009 in Food
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You need vitamins.  Protein.  Even a healthy amount of fat.  Google searchers, you can not live on lettuce.

We don’t know each other, you and I.   But we both know that, while an attractive strategy to become a shard of your former self while still eating every meal, it can’t be good to eat only lettuce.  I was there once.  I wished that I could be as thin, no, thinner!, than the other girls at school.  Jill had the cutest, shortest white shorts that she wore all summer long.  Kim had legs that you could drive a train between.  Jennifer was a tiny thing – not five feet, all eyes and a smile.  A trio of Shelbys with itsy bitsy ribcages and small gently curved arms waving from snug tank tops.  I didn’t dream about magazine models – everyone knows you can’t look like those woman, right? – but I’d have given anything, even heads upon heads of lettuce to look like the thin girls around me.

I’ve spent time on the edge of resolutions.  Nothing anything after 8.  Nothing after noon.  Just breakfast.  Maybe nothing.  I’ll go to the gym for an hour.  Every day.  Twice a day.  I’ll stay two hours.  I can look like them.  I can be them.  Lettuce lookers, “can I survive on only lettuce” and “eat only lettuce”, I’m talking to you.

High school years behind me, I know I was that same girl.  Rounder maybe, curvier.  Cuter.  But I lived on ice cream sandwiches for breakfast, an apple for lunch and two hour swim practices each afternoon. How I managed it, I have no idea.  Regardless of my miserable eating habits (which I am now, happily, over) I never resigned myself to a vegetable that is basically water.  So please, don’t come here looking for tips on living on lettuce alone.  No one is selling that promise here.