Monday, 31 May 2010

Words From The Den

As happens so often, I go to write some replies to the people who have left such kind comments here and I am unable to even begin.
"Why is that?" I ask myself.
"Well", replies a more Knowing Self, "that would be because you feel overwhelmed by the things that have been said and the fact that you don't deserve anyone to hear you. Thus replying seems to acknowledge that you are worth commenting ON".
"Ahhh" says my Wondering Self. And then a small "oh".

It's not just replying either.
It's writing full stop.
In my last post, I optimistically resolved to write more in order to stop throwing mountains of cash into the dissociative void.
As you can see, THAT went well.

On the subject of therapy (and given the subheading on this blog, I guess it should be) it has been... a little bit like curling up inside a den of very hungry lions who haven't yet sniffed me out.
I realise that I am here, admitting something that feels so risky that I WINCE as I type. Is it possible that the couch, in that little cottage in the woods, has become an object of safety?
It has been a year since I began therapy, so I guess it's about time that I started to feel like I can trust that place, at least a tiny bit.
Committing that thought to 'paper' (albeit virtual paper) feels terrifying. Perhaps because I am afraid that I can't take it back when suddenly, it all becomes so unsafe again. And it does... Sometimes the lions look at me with glazed eyes which could realise me at any given moment.
It's a risk and I stay curled, very small and for the time being at least, safe.

************ Having just written this, I read back and find that what I HAVEN'T written about is what I would really LIKE to find words the for and yet, as usual, I have tiptoed around lions.

If I live long enough, one day I'll fight them **************

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Is It All In My Head? Dissociation v Reality

Dissociation, like depression, has a wardrobe full of different outfits.

It can appear smoothly, draped in a fine mist of white muslin, allowing a hazy, overexposed world to blur before your eyes.

Other times it can rock up dressed in an altogether more jazzy little number, a more textured material with large purpley grey blotches which grow and intensify as you look at them.

Occasionally it can make quite a dramatic entrance wearing a dark, kaleidoscopic cloak which wraps around the edges of your eyes, warping distance, making things zoom in and out. Making the world a computer game. Those cars racing you... they're not real... Nothing is really real.

Sometimes dissociation involves sound... an indistinct blurring of a voice with the silence of the space it falls into... The words take a sudden dive before they reach your ears... Sometimes the letter blends that make up the words don't even get to you in the right order. Syllables stretch into each other, yawning languidly into each others' beginnings and endings and beginnings until there are no gaps in sound, just distant, fluctuating tones.

And then there are things that I fail to understand.

I ALWAYS thought I had an atrocious memory. I remember so very little about being young. Whole trips, events, months, years don't exist in my mind. Somewhere in me lies a terror filled conviction that I am in the early stages of Alzheimer's... Early onset... It seems an inescapable fate, given that it's both my long and short term memory that is an issue.

I often run upstairs to get something and by the time I'm up there, it's gone... I have conversations and stop mid sentence, unable to complete what I've been saying.

I go to ask my boss something, tap on the door, say hello and then.... then nothing. (And NO, I'm not anxious around my boss. We're good friends).

Recently, my family recalled a trip to a cousin's christening. We'd stayed the night before in a pub and I had apparently become hysterical with fear upon entering the place. Something about some drunk men in the bar...

"You must remember! You were about eleven! I was only six and I remember it!"

The nerves in my leg have all gone dead and though I watch the skin dent under their fingertips, I can't feel them pressing down on it.

That's what listening to stories of my childhood is sometimes like.

According to the woman, and to others who seem to know, my memory loss is dissociation. It's indicative of 'something'. It 'says a lot'. Really? I can't believe this. It's sounding too strange and I know, after all, that I just have a terrible memory compared to my sisters.

But I don't remember a lot of sessions either. Whole therapy sessions aren't there the next day. Someone pointed out that I pay too much to be forgetting everything. Hence my new resolve to write, despite resistance.

This post is too long but I wanted to include a song by a man I'm sure I could love (if only for his voice).

It's called In My Head and it's a question that tortures me.

Something sometimes happens in therapy where I find myself asking if anything I feel really exists... I suddenly doubt that the pain and the desperation is real... I doubt that I am even telling he truth... I don't know whether anything I feel exists in reality. I beg the woman to consider that I might be making it up... that it might all be in my head. I don't want to waste her time. I don't want her to believe me if my feelings aren't even real.

I'll leave Mr Sean Mullins to explain the rest.

Is it all in my head? Is it all in my head? Could everything be alright
without me knowing?

Is it all just a game? Where everything stays the same? Is it all in my

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Beyond Friday.

After Friday's session, being the mature adult that I am, I drank myself stupid.
And what better way of dealing with the desperation I was feeling?
(OK. You may not hear the irony that question is heavily weighted with... You'll just have to take my word for it. It is).

Although it feels as though almost every cell in my body has been screaming, the cries have been largely unintelligible. Trying to translate has been like walking down the street past people's conversations, catching snippets, exclamations, disjointed and unrelated.

I seem to be in very separate parts.

One part has been in agony.

Some nights have seen me curled, clutching my bear against my stomach, pressing into the pain in a fruitless attempt to make it subside.
Applying pressure to the wound, is what springs to mind as I type.
The writhing and the breathless, empty pain, reminiscent of the twisting nights where my sister's illness was so new and the loss was so raw and immediate.
That same deep and desperate ache.
The ungroaned, churning and building in the middle of me.
So, one part agony... Another, disgust and hatred.

It started the following afternoon when, despite the alcohol - induced drum, beating in my head, I stood under the shower, my inside no more than a shell. Sans feeling.
Suddenly and unaccountably, a photograph appeared in my head.
Dad and three little girls wearing white spotted, cotton sundresses.
One little girl is standing slightly in front of the others three figures. She has her arms folded across her, clutching her arms as though cold; and her face is a picture of frowning discontent.
Perhaps I was cold. Perhaps sulking.
But in less than a second, I was flooded with a disgust and self hatred so strong it might have split me in half, my body the tower of Babel and my horror as powerful as God's own rage.
It's my fault. I was the sister from hell. If I hadn't existed, she would have been ok. It must have been cold there in my shadow, playing in my head.
And that little girl, THAT little girl, she needs to be starved to death.
And she is.
I'm at my lowest weight in a long time today. It feels good to be in control of her.

A third part experiences rage.

Monday's session, which I can't much recall, stoked a fire of anger at myself.
How dare I have this... How dare I?
Everyday I work with children who have suffered the most unimaginable trauma.
Torture, rape, abuse, terrible loss.
I go and see the woman, I tell her and she listens.
She talks about me. My pain. Things that may or may not have happened and I am so, so, so angry.

Like me, this woman hears the most awful things. Atrocities. People who have suffered beyond what I would consider to be bearable.
And here I am. And here she is listening.
I can't get past the fact she must be disgusted by me.
I am invalid. INvalid. There are no explanations or excuses that justify my pain.
My propensity for weakness is astounding.
On Monday my anger and my fear is too much, and I vow not to go back to her and I am absolutely certain that I won't, because I can't justify it.
I consider an email which will ensure I am too ashamed to ever return, just in case my will were to weaken.
And now, come Wednesday, I am not sure how I will cope with not having a place to take this pain. Because I can hate it, deny it, minimise it, rage and resent it all I like. But it's still there and
it still makes me fold in half.
And I hate myself with all the raw passion of an angst ridden teenager, and all the weary loneliness of a man at the end of an unfulfilled life.
Today has mostly been a series of blanks inside.
My Very Sad Case came into my room first thing. She wanted to talk about a shock she had had.
I listened and spoke carefully. I wanted her to feel the care.
I taught my lessons, I ate some lettuce and tomatoes, I wrote my plans and I came home and curled up and slept.
Writing this post, I am again struck by the wave of disgust at myself.
There is no end to it.

Friday, 7 May 2010

Saying the Unsayable

Although it seems absurd for someone of my age to behave in such a way, whenever my anxiety becomes unbearable, I crouch against the radiator in my room, and play game after game of Bejeweled or Word Scramble on my itouch.

It's a way of not thinking.

I have been crouched there for the last two hours.

My therapy session is responsible for tonight's retreat into a world of random letters on nine squared grids.

"Tell me about your week", the woman asked, when I explained that I had struggled with a huge loss of control with my eating since Wednesday.
So I do.
I tell her about the ferocity of my four day workouts, I tell her about the pressures of GCSE coursework, I tell her about the curriculum inset I have been on. I tell her about the anxiety I have felt.

She asks if I feel the impact of the kids' anxiety. (The children I work with / teach).

And so I begin to tell her about a particular kid, one in my group, who is in the middle of a case where her secret history of sexual abuse has come to light.

I tell her about this poor girl, who I want to wrap up and hold safe until it's all over. I tell her about how much I want to protect her, how frustrated I am with child mental health services lack of input, how I want to shred the red tape that is binding professional services from helping her for the next few weeks.

I tell her about how much she reminds me of me at that age... Her anxiety... the phobias she has...

I recall the fear that wraps itself around her at night...

And the woman utters the omnipotent, 'yes' and adds that she was just thinking that.

Why? I ask her.
She doesn't know the girl. How can she know that we're similar?
The woman's response is a blank (in my memory) except for the fact that she compared us in terms of dissociation.
So she knows. She knows about the extent of the dissociation. How does she know that it's that bad?
(Note the twisted irony in the fact that my mind has gone blank somewhere around this)

We talked more about the girl, until the woman said that what was important, in terms of our work, was that I tried to remember the fact that I had noticed similarities between this girl and myself.

More blanks
we discussed something my mum had said the other night when talking about my
sister's seventeen year long illness.

Mum: I've often wondered why... Why, when she has grown up in this family... With all this love... How....?
Me: Maybe love isn't always enough.
Mum: Of course love is enough... being loved...

The woman says it's an interesting and that she takes it that my parents only recognise 'abuse' as something very violent or sexual...
She says something about emotional abuse and I say,

"My sister wasn't emotionally abused"

" I was thinking of you actually"

That's hurt my stomach. Can I tell her that? Can I tell her that what she just said hurts in my tummy? No. I can't. That sounds pathetic. It is silly and it doesn't make sense.

And I'm dazed and a little way off and I am beginning to pick up the cynic's shield because somewhere it's aching but somewhere else it's feeling like a deliberate game, playing with my emotions, kicking the ball at me when I wasn't looking...

"Huh? What is emotional abuse anyway?"
There's no such thing. It's another bloody therapy buzz word. They get paid to turn us all into victims.

"Emotional abuse is being repeatedly hit... a little girl being thrashed in the middle of the night when she's anxious... blank blank blank

Blasted by an ice blow torch. Instantly frozen.

What? What's she saying? No more. Don't say anymore. please stop. Did I just say that bit aloud? Don't cry. Don't cry. You're ok. You're ok. Don't cry.

........"that wasn't to help you... that was out of anger... It was out of control..."

Stay calm... It's ok... What do I do with this? What am I meant to do with this?

I hear a small, strangled groan that might be a sob
Shit. Did that come from me? Did she hear? Please don't let her have heard

I want to cough to cover the sound up.
No, a cough'll just make it worse. Maybe she didn't hear.

Sudden tears on my face
No. No no no no no. Don't cry. Come on. It doesn't matter. It doesn't matter. why am I crying? What am I crying for? It isn't anything. I don't even feel anything. Why are you crying you silly girl?

"....... and we're a couple of minutes over and I realise this is a bad place to have to break... just take a few minutes...."

What do I DO with this?

She's saying something about saying the unsayable

"There are some tissues......."

She knows I'm crying.
Of course she knows I'm crying... I'm trying to wipe my face... What the hell am I crying for?

She's asking what my weekend is like....

I'm telling her I don't know. That it's ok. That I'm ok. That I'm sorry.

And it's a blank how I get out of the room.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Summoning up the Energy

Although I would ideally like to be a little more disciplined, very often, writing this blog seems to demand a far greater degree of energy than I am capable of finding in me.

It feels hard to summon the courage to write some of the things I am afraid of commiting to anything more than the very floaty space somewhere in the haziest recesses of my mind.

Often, the depression I live with day to day, lies in me, appearing dormant to all but the part of me that is a desire for self expression.

The black dog lies heavy on my chest. Always with one eye open.

"Should" isn't a great word.

I know that.

It's one of those words that most counselling types love to pounce on before suggesting 'healthier words like "would like to" or "could".

Nonetheless, as a blog about therapy, I feel that I should be making more of an effort to muster the energy, reach into the haze, muzzle the black dog and write more about it.

And so I tred lightly over the trepidation and pledge to try, even when the words are hard.