Tag Archives: dissociation

Trapped

I think it’s the feeling trapped that’s worst for me.  Feeling like I can’t get out and I can’t say no.

My NP was not insensitive or ruthless.  I think my post yesterday made her sound that way, and she wasn’t.  It just felt that way to me, and my feelings do not always reflect reality.  In reality, she was kind and understanding.  I know she recognized that the discussion about an exam triggered me.  I mean, we went from joking about Star Trek and debating the merits of particular knitting patterns (seamless sweater patterns FTW) at the beginning of the appointment to me staring at the floor and giving one or two word answers.  She knows I have a history of sexual abuse, although she doesn’t know the severity.  (She may have guessed from the severity of my reactions that it was pretty bad, but we haven’t discussed any details.)

She tried to make me more comfortable with it.  She said she wouldn’t do an internal exam because she knew I couldn’t do that (yet).  She said I could bring someone with me, and they could stay with me but not see anything.  (I didn’t tell her I’m so pathetic I don’t have anyone to bring.)  She said some people take Valium or Ativan right before the appointment.  She even said that if I couldn’t do an exam, we could just talk about how things were going with the Nexplanon.  She said it was my choice.

But for me, it never feels like what happens to my body is my choice.  I lose the ability to say no to people in positions of power and authority.  It feels like they’re going to do whatever they want to me anyway, so it’s better to agree to it.  Then they don’t get mad, so they don’t hurt you as bad.  So I say yes and okay when what I mean is I’m so scared you’re going to hurt me, and I really need you to be kind and gentle with me, and I need you to make me feel safe.  Since I can’t say what I really need to say, it never feels safe.  It never feels like my choice.  No choice, no voice.

I felt trapped in that exam room yesterday.  I guess I could’ve said, “I’m sorry, I just can’t deal with this right now.  I need to go.”  Or I could’ve said, “I’m feeling really overwhelmed, and I’m starting to dissociate.”  Or I could’ve said, “I’m trying to work with you, but I need you to slow down even more with me.”  Someone could’ve said those things, but I don’t think I could’ve.  It was taking everything I had not to go into a total dissociative shutdown.  My vision kept going blank, and I kept blinking over and over to bring it back.  My ears were ringing.  I couldn’t be articulate; one or two words or a nod was all I could get out.  And then she wanted me to look at her when I said I’d come back in three months, and I don’t think she understood why I couldn’t make eye contact.

People who don’t live with the extreme shame can never quite understand it.  It doesn’t make sense to them.  They don’t understand the intensity and persistence of the shame of someone else abusing me, even once I’ve accepted and come to believe that it wasn’t my fault.  Then there’s the shame of having a body, which is impossible to explain since everyone has one, and I don’t find other people’s bodies shameful.  The shame of not having anyone close or trusted enough to bring with me for an appointment.  I couldn’t explain my shame that instead of being my normally intelligent, articulate, adult self, I couldn’t help shutting down and turning into a terrified, barely-verbal child.  None of that makes sense to normal people.

I was trapped.  In my reality, I couldn’t leave or say no.  I couldn’t even communicate the depth of my distress, so I was completely alone with it.  And now I’m alone with the aftermath.  The acute trigger has subsided, but I’m still feeling raw and vulnerable.  Body memories, phantom touches, intrusive thoughts and memories, severe anxiety about an appointment that’s not for three months.  A feeling that I was violated, even though I know I wasn’t.  And the incredible shame crushing my chest.

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Surrealism and Detachment

I talk to my mother on the phone.

Even that’s surreal, after several years of no contact.  She’s changed.  All my life, she expected me and my sisters to meet all her emotional needs.  Now she’s married, and she has someone age-appropriate to meet her needs.  She’s not as crazy anymore, not in the harmful ways she used to be, and I can talk to her without getting sucked into the crazy demands.  I still don’t trust her.  I know she’ll never acknowledge the harm she did to me for most of my life, but I also like feeling like I finally have a mother.  She hasn’t said anything cruel or manipulative in the year or so since we started talking again.  But it’s like she’s both my mother and not my mother simultaneously, on a number of levels, and that’s surreal.

She tells me my uncle, her brother, just sold his computer security company to Raytheon for $420 million.  I literally had to write that down because my brain couldn’t translate how many zeroes that was.  I can’t relate to that amount on money.  Right now, I have $7 to last me the rest of the month.  I only bought four rolls of toilet paper because I couldn’t afford any more than that.  I don’t think I’ll have enough money to pay December’s rent, and my power and heat bills are overdue.

But my uncle just sold his company for $420 million.  That’s $420,000,000, in case any of you also can’t conceptualize that many zeroes without seeing it.

He worked hard, and I don’t begrudge him his success.  But certainly the law of diminishing returns kicks in at some point, right?  I can’t even comprehend what you would do with that much money.  To put it in perspective, that’s more than three times the annual budget for the National Endowment for the Arts.  It’s surreal.  I don’t even really know him anymore, but even if I did, I don’t think I could ask him for it.  But it’s bizarre, realizing that a man with whom I share 21.9% of my DNA (yes, that’s an exact and oddly specific figure) has $420,000,000 and I don’t know how I’m going to pay $400 in rent.  How can that even be real?

My mother keeps saying how much she’s looking forward to seeing me for Christmas.  I tell her I’m excited about the trip too, but I’m detached.  I really don’t believe I’m going to live that long.  Three weeks, but I don’t think I can make it.  I think I will probably kill myself when I can’t pay my rent.  But I tell her I’m looking forward to it because I can’t exactly tell my mother I’m probably going to be dead before then.

Everything feels surreal, and I feel like I have no attachment to anyone or anything, like a helium balloon floating away.

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Dis-integrated

C wants me to have a sit-down with my landlady and my roommate.  It makes perfect sense, except…well, I don’t know if I can.

I’m in PTSD hell, and I just can’t deal with anything else right now.  It’s too many triggers all at once–the bar thing last weekend and now this bullshit drama.  And I have nowhere to turn, no way to process any of it.

I know that if we have a meeting, one of two things will happen.  Possibility one: I will switch to a terrified child part who will just apologize and try to make nice or will freeze and shut down because she can’t handle conflict–it’ll all be about avoiding the abuse that comes with conflict.  (I know, the two aren’t always linked, but in this case, roommate has actually been verbally aggressive, even though it was indirect, so this fear is not invalid.)  The other possibility is that I’ll switch to the angry teenage part who will just want to verbally annihilate the roommate and is very well capable of it.  That would be the part who posted the gif post yesterday–the one who’s just like, “Bitch plz.  I am stronger and smarter and a whole lot goddamn scarier than you are, and if you wanna know what a REAL threat looks like, I’ll fucking show you.”

I know that, at this point, given my levels of stress, panic, and dissociation, I won’t be able to stay me without switching.  C asked me today which part of me could deal with the situation, and the truth is there’s nobody.  We’re triggered in different ways and by different aspects of the situation, but we’re all triggered.  That seems to be the way it usually works in my system–the boundaries between us are not rigid, so the responses to situations blur together too.  What affects one of us almost always affects all of us.

It’s times like these that I really need a therapist.  I need someone who can help me sort out the triggers and get all of us more grounded in the present.  I need to be able to integrate the child parts’ desire to be nice and not hurt roommate with the teenage part’s “I’m above this and you can’t hurt me with your stupid drama” sense of self-assurance.  I know they’re parts of me, and I can see them and feel their feelings, but I can’t integrate them into me, and I can’t manage to stay present when I even hear or think about the roommate, so I know I won’t be able to if we sit down face to face.

I know what I need to be able to do to manage this meeting, but I have no idea how to get there.  It feels really hopeless and terrifying right now.

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Triggers

Sorry I’ve been absent.  I have been/still am really triggered, and I haven’t been able to read–blogs or anything else longer than a few sentences.  Still really struggling and not sure I’ll be able to write coherently.

See, Thursday we went to Boston for a post-election party.  I thought it was just going to be the party, an overnight at someone’s place in Boston, and then home.  Instead it turned into bar-hopping with the campaign staff.  If you’re thinking that sounds like fun, you’re wrong.  See, alcohol is a trigger for me because my father was often drunk when he abused me.  Between the UC and the meds, I can’t drink.  Well, everybody else is getting fucking wasted, and they just leave me sitting in a corner by myself for hours, not even talking to me.  I told my RFD that I’m not physically capable of running all around Boston, and it was raining to boot.  Usually he’s really considerate about my limitations, but that night, he really didn’t seem to give a shit.  Maybe it was the alcohol, or maybe it was just that it was his last night with the rest of the campaign staff.  Whatever it was, he basically treated me like I didn’t matter–I got dragged to four different bars, and predictably, I eventually fell on a slick sidewalk at 1:30 in the morning and couldn’t get up for several minutes.  Oh, and for most of the time we were bar-hopping, our 20-year-old intern was just left sitting in his car because she couldn’t get into the bars.  I wanted to go sit with her instead, but my RFD made me stay because his phone was dead, and he needed my GPS to find our way back to where the car was parked.

In the second bar, while I was sitting alone in the corner, the only sober person, this drunk businessman in a nice suit comes over and starts hitting on me.  Then he grabbed my breast, and I just froze.  I just sat there and let him.  I have extensive martial arts experience, and even though I’m not physically capable of as much as I used to be, I could’ve gotten away from him.  If nothing else, I could’ve hit him with my cane.  But I didn’t do any of that.  I didn’t say no, I didn’t say stop.  I just sat there and let him do it.

Now I really hate myself.  It’s just like with my father.  I mean, okay, when I was a kid, there wasn’t really anything I could do about it.  Even as I got a little older, he had me believing that he’d kill me if I fought or if I told anyone, and I didn’t have the reasoning skills to realize he wouldn’t have gotten away with that–he’s really just not smart enough.  So back then, I had an excuse.  But I let it go on when I was old enough that I knew he wouldn’t kill me and I really could’ve stopped him.  I mean, I was 19 the last time he raped me.  There’s no excuse for that.  I just let him.  If I’d fought or said no, he probably would’ve stopped, but I never did.  So that’s on me.

Now I just want to tear myself to shreds.  I want to cut my breasts off–I never wanted them anyway, and if I did that, no one would want to touch me.  I’m also really struggling with sexual self-harm urges.  It’s something I used to do but haven’t in a long time.  But I can’t stop the flashbacks and the body memories, and it would put me back in control.  I know how fucked-up that is, but sometimes it’s the only thing that works.  If I do something worse that any of them ever did to me, then what they did can’t hurt me anymore.

And on top of everything else, my roommate is being horrible.  I came home to a gross apartment–mold in my microwave, a half-empty beer on the kitchen counter, an unflushed toilet, and sopping wet washcloths and a giant hairball in the bathtub.  I just pulled the washcloths and hairball out of the tub and dumped them on the bathroom floor, and this morning, she pitched a hissy fit over it, stomping around and slamming doors and shit.  (Another big trigger, on top of all the other triggers.)  I’m sorry, but you’re fucking 29 years old, and I’m not your goddamned maid.  I pay rent too.  I don’t mind messiness–books and papers and stuff sitting around is not a big deal, but I don’t want fucking mildew growing in my bathroom or mold growing in my kitchen.  In general, I don’t want things growing in my living space.  (Although right now growing some pot for myself sounds pretty ideal.)  How fucking hard is it to dump out the rest of your beer or to hang up your fucking washcloths?  But EVERY FUCKING DAY when I go to take a shower, there they are.  I don’t leave my shit for you to clean up, and you have the goddamn nerve to pitch a fit when I move your messes somewhere obvious as a reminder that maybe you should, you know, be a fucking adult and clean them the fuck up?  Bitch, get on the NOPE train to Fuckthatville.

My landlady is away for the weekend, but I’m thinking about talking to her about this when she gets back.  I’m hesitant to do that on the one hand, because I feel like we’re both adults and should handle our own problems.  But on the other hand, I’m so triggered by her screaming and slamming doors and stomping around that I literally CAN’T deal with it like an adult because I dissociate and switch, either to a terrified child or a really aggressive teenager (hence all the swearing in the last few paragraphs), neither of which is good for dealing with a tense situation.  Plus, if I do want to kick her out, I’m going to have to go through my landlady because Roommate is on the lease now.  I’m not even sure I legally CAN kick her out.  I just know I can’t deal with much more of this.  I’ve been taking photos of the grossness when it happens as documentation, but I’m not sure what the laws are.  I just know I can’t live like this.  I spend a lot of my time afraid to come out of my room when she’s home because I will snap if she starts yelling or bitching at me.  I just have so much other shit to deal with that I really cannot deal with hers on top of everything else.

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When you least expect it

I’d thought I was doing really well handling my PTSD symptoms.  Turns out I’m only actually good at handling them when there are no triggers.

All morning, my roommate has been yelling at her parents on the phone, banging around the apartment, slamming doors.  These are major triggers for me.  These were the things that came right before my mother’s rages.  Then there would be hours of her screaming at me, telling me I was a terrible person, telling me I was ruining her life.  Sometimes she’d hit me.  Sometimes she’d throw things at me.  Often, she’d threaten suicide and blame me for it.  Then she’d disappear–sometimes for hours, sometimes for days.  I would be left alone with my sisters, and I never knew if she was coming back or if she’d actually kill herself this time.  I’d do the best I could to take care of my sisters–we ate a lot of cereal, sandwiches, and macaroni and cheese because those were the only things I could cook.  I made sure we all got on the bus on time in clean clothes.  I didn’t know exactly what would happen if any grown-ups found out my mother kept disappearing, but I knew it wouldn’t be good.  I hid it all, but I was a child.  Children aren’t really very good at hiding things, but no one noticed because they didn’t want to notice.  When I was ten and my depression got so bad I couldn’t function in school, when I tried to kill myself the first time (albeit very ineptly), no one ever investigated why such a young child was so severely depressed.  No one investigated what was going on in my life, and I couldn’t tell.

I was left completely alone with a situation too huge for me to deal with, but I didn’t have any choice.  I didn’t have any way out.

And that’s how I feel now, even though I know it’s old trauma stuff.  My roommate is not actually going to hurt me, and even if she tried, I know how to take care of myself.  But my heart is racing, and I can’t stop shaking.  Every noise makes me jump.  I have my earbuds in with music on, but that only helps a little.  It becomes overstimulating–sound is the worst for me, for some reason–but that’s better than listening to my roommate.  I’ve done all the grounding stuff, and I’m not dissociating–but I don’t feel safe.   I really need to get something to eat, but I can’t leave my bedroom.  I can’t deal with seeing her or talking to her.

I really, really wish I could afford to live alone.  I do so much better that way.  Living with people is triggering, even if they’re people I’m comfortable with.  I just never feel entirely safe when there’s someone else in my space.  Roommate is nice enough, but it turns out she’s kind of immature and a drama queen.  From what I can gather, she’s having some kind of dental problem, and she’s upset because her parents didn’t call her or come take care of her.  I mean, she’s almost 30.  I try not to be judgmental of people’s distress, but when her distress is so out of control that it causes me distress, I lose tolerance.  I mean, I nearly died when I first got sick with UC, and there was literally no one there for me.  I was 500 miles away from home and 600 miles away from my family, and my family wouldn’t have been terribly concerned even if I’d been right next door.  My mother didn’t take care of me when I was sick as a child, let alone as an adult.  It sucks, yes.  It hurts when our parents don’t take care of us the way we need them to.  But you grow up and deal with it as best you can.  You don’t spend hours screaming about it.  You acknowledge that it sucks, but then you take care of yourself as best you can.

I hope this screaming and crap doesn’t become a long-term issue with Roommate.  I really cannot deal with that, at all.  Somebody just buy me my own place so I never have to live with anyone again.  Those tiny houses are pretty cool; I could go for one of them.  Just as long as it’s mine.

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Hat tip to Schrodinger

Right now–not sure if I exist…or not.  Real or not?

Can anyone even see me?  Hear me?  I think I have spoken, I think I have been heard, but then…nothing.  Silence, absence, vacuum.   If the phone doesn’t ring, it’s me.  There’s a face in the mirror but it doesn’t look real.  Inexplicable–of course it is real, but no, it’s not, or the person behind it isn’t real, I don’t know.

You’re not making any sense.

There are so many names but none of them are mine.  None of them fit.  The voices too.  And there’s no air in my lungs.  I keep breathing but it doesn’t help.

Do I exist?

You can’t ask that question because you can’t define your terms.  Define “I.”  All you know is what you are not, or what you think you are not.  Creating negative space around something doesn’t create matter in the positive space.  Now define “exist.”  You don’t know that either.

What I know is something is wrong and I need it to stop but I don’t know how to make it stop.  How can you stop something if you don’t even know if it’s real?

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nihil

Last night I kept dreaming of being in institutions–boarding schools and psych units.  For once, the psych unit dreams weren’t bad.  It was being somewhere that people noticed I existed every day, not just once a week or when they needed something done.

In my real life, I go days without talking to anyone.  I rarely leave my bedroom, let alone my apartment.  If I disappeared, who would even notice?  It would take weeks for anyone to realize I wasn’t here anymore.  Probably not until rent or bills came due and didn’t get paid.  Then add a few days before they’d decide it wasn’t just that I was depressed and ignoring my phone.

It’s like I’m barely here.  Right now, I’m not even sure I really do exist.

So I sleep, and I dream, and in my dreams, I am real, I exist, there is a space for me where I am held.  And then I wake up and there is nothing, I am nothing.

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Reconstructing Lost Time

I think I’ve mentioned here before that ECT caused me to lose almost all memory of about a four or five-year period preceding the ECT.  I have a few isolated memories of particular events, but they’re disconnected and out of context; I can’t form a coherent timeline or a narrative of that time.

This afternoon, I talked to a friend who I was very close to during much that time period that I can’t remember.  She said she said she saved a bunch of notes I’d written her, and she also offered to photocopy pages from her journal where she talked about what was going on with me.  She even suggested sitting down and talking about the few memories I do have so she can help fill in some of the blanks.  She won’t be able to fill in any information about the work I was doing in my intensive therapy, but a lot of the rest, she does remember.

Part of me is excited at the idea of being able to reconstruct that time.  So much of my life is empty holes and blank spaces.  It leaves me feeling unsure of who I even am sometimes–how can you know who you are when you can’t remember most of your past?  This friend and I are both writers, and she’s encouraged me to write a memoir about that time.  I’d like to be able to do that, and even if I don’t, I’ll still feel better if I can put together more memory of it.

But part of me is also hesitant.  That was an incredibly difficult, painful time for me.  Ultimately it saved my life, but to get there, I had to open myself up to feeling more pain than I’d ever let myself feel in my life.  My relationship with my therapist ultimately showed me how to save myself and gave me permission to do it, but I spent a lot of time convinced my therapist hated me.  From what I can remember, I spent a lot of time convinced that everyone hated me, but it was much more intense in the relationship with my therapist.  I was struggling intensely to give up a lot of self-destructive stuff, and that was incredibly painful.  And I was beginning to face the depth of my trauma for the first time.  I remember spending most of my therapy hours with one hand shading my eyes, like you might in bright sun, so my therapist couldn’t look at me, although I wasn’t aware for most of that time that that’s why I was doing it.  In the two years I worked with that therapist, I’m not sure I ever made direct eye contact with her.

But it’s not like the pain of that time is new, and it’s not now.  I survived it once, and it let me save myself.  I think remembering that time might let me reconnect with the feelings of hope I eventually uncovered, and that would be a very good thing.

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I went and bought a suitcase today.  Actually, a three-piece luggage set, which at regular price was $199, but I got it for $70.  Pretty great deal.  It’s just weird to buy luggage.  It struck me as something real people do, and I’ve lapsed back into feeling like I’m not a real person.  Does the fact that I now own a matched luggage set make me a real person?

I’m not sure that will make any sense to anyone outside my head.  I’m not entirely sure I’m capable of making sense.

It’s all surreal, you know?  I’m really dysfunctional; I hardly leave my bed or get dressed or brush my hair or anything.  But at the same time, I’m planning for this big trip all on my own.  Going back to where I grew up, to most of the people I grew up with.  And I don’t know how I’m going to do with it.

I still sort of think of Birmingham as home.  It’s a little confusing–I never intend to live there again, I never really fit in anywhere there, but I’m still fond of it.  But I haven’t been back there in seven years, and there are a lot of bad memories there too.  And some bad people.

And then–Florida, with my mother, to help her after her neck surgery.  I volunteered for that: why?  I thought I was past trying to be good enough to make her love me, but is that why I’m doing it?  I’d prefer to think it’s mostly selfish, that I wanted to spend time at the beach and I volunteered because she’ll be at work most of the time, so I’ll get to do what I want.  I don’t know which is true; it’s probably a combination of both.  But it disgusts me that I’m weak enough to still go seeking her approval by playing the good daughter.

I think a lot of the confusion is because there are so many parts with conflicting feelings.  Cognitive dissonance, because it doesn’t make sense together.  Luckily I’ve gotten good at ambivalence.  I can hold multiple contradictory beliefs or wishes simultaneously, and I don’t know if that’s a good thing or if it just means I’m extra crazy.  It probably doesn’t matter which.

I’m not making sense, am I?  I don’t think I’m making sense.  Part of me cares, but most of me doesn’t, anymore.  I don’t know what I’m talking about.  I don’t know what I’m writing.  It probably doesn’t matter.

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Gotta Love Memory Loss

Someone friended me on Facebook tonight.  I couldn’t for the life of me remember who she was, but we had three mutual friends, all people I knew from the 2 years I spent at a treatment center.  So I approved her friend request even though I had no memory of her.

Then she posted on my timeline–along the lines of, “Hey, how are?”  I gave a nondescript answer at first and then went to scour her page to see if I could figure out who on earth she was.  Her pictures didn’t even look familiar.

Finally I texted B and asked him who the hell this person was.  (B and I met at this program.)  Apparently, she was my first nursing care coordinator (NCC).  I met with her every day for months and saw her several times a week once she wasn’t my NCC anymore.  This was only five years ago–it’s not like it’s been decades or anything.

I suspect most of this is caused by the ECT, although some of it might also be dissociation.  I had 29 ECT’s the year after I left that program, and I lost most of my memories of the five years before the ECT, including the time I spent at this treatment program.  But usually I’ve been able to at least recognize people and remember how I felt about them, even if I couldn’t remember why.  For instance, B and I ran into another former patient.  I remembered I didn’t like him but couldn’t remember why.  I had to ask B why.  Once he filled me in, I vaguely remembered the incident, and it made sense why I didn’t like him.

But this woman, I couldn’t remember at all.  Once B told me she’d been my NCC, the first name clicked.  Her picture is still totally foreign to me, though.  It’s really weird when somebody knows you but you don’t know them.  Luckily, my lifelong history of dissociation has made me really good at knowing how to act like I know what’s going on when I really have no idea.

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