Another trigger (partly) understood

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Every now and then we find that the colour green follows us around menacingly.  I’ve never really understood why but I think I know the answer to that mystery now, sort of.

I got into the therapy room today and I was incredibly restless.  I was fidgeting.  Anxious.  Feeling really highly strung.  I kept saying I don’t know why I am like this, I don’t feel connected to you and I don’t know why.  We were due to have lunch together again like last week but I knew it wasn’t just that.

“Did you have a nasty dream about me?”

No.

“Have you been worrying about the therapy process all weekend?”

No.

“Perhaps it is something I’m wearing”. 

That was when the panic attack hit me.  Cats top had a celtic symbol on it that she was worried about, but it wasn’t that, it was that her top was green.

“You’ve said this before, what does the colour green mean to you?”

It’s a message 

“What is the message?”

That I am going to get hurt… … witches faces are green, you know, and when you feel sick people say your face is green too… faces are not supposed to be green

“And I’m wearing green eye-liner too, I am sorry”

Cat put her grey jumper on to cover the green but honestly, if we could have ripped her green top off we would have done.  It felt so threatening.  I couldn’t touch her because of it, I couldn’t abide the thought that the green was still touching her skin even though she had it mostly covered up.

Other than a repetitive hallucination as a teen I don’t fully understand where the connection has come from between witches having green faces, and green being a message of future harm.  True the mother had a witch persona but I can’t imagine her dressing up to THAT degree – but then I don’t have ten years of amnesia for nothing.

Thankfully, with Cats gentle voice reminding us that she is safe, even if she is wearing a green top, the panic disappeared and the connection between us was suddenly the biggest thing in the room again.  Through this connection we were able to eat the lunch Cat had prepared for us (I sat behind her this time, she didn’t need to go out the room- progress!) AND I was able to tell her about a physical health concern I have at the moment AND let her see it.  This is pretty huge for us, because it meant exposing a part of my body that people never see (um, just my leg).  But the most healing part of the session was the long hug at the end, reconnecting again with her heartbeat, her heart, where she says that I am.

Body boundaries

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Over the last few months I’ve become more aware of body boundaries and how I had none as a child/teenager/young adult. I’ve started feeling really hypersensitive to what I need my body boundaries to be at the moment. I end up feeling incredibly invaded if I feel that line has been crossed, by anyone, my dogs included!

At the moment its at the point where my body boundaries are stretched way past my body and onto objects in a room. For example, if my bed gets touched, or my towels get used, I feel it as a personal body invasion (to the point where I can’t even have my dogs on my bed sometimes).  I find myself wanting to exist with a see-through bubble around me and my personal stuff the majority of the time.

Alongside this though I’m allowing my partner more into my body boundaries- though only verrrrry slightly and it’s not a reliable invitation at all. For example, sometimes I will ask for his hand to help me get up, sometimes I will move closer to him giving him permission to put his arm around me… But its hard for him to read my little dances I know, because I’m still having that yucky invaded feeling if it happens outside of when I’m welcoming it.

So its all a bit of a confusing time but things are progressing with me which is a testament to the safety I feel on a daily basis, the majority of the time.

Running parallel to this I am in the process of introducing safe touch to one of my working dogs. This is a dog who has been mistreated with regards to handling. Owners who thought pinning their dog to the ground with a muzzle on was the way to behave. What is left is a dog who is scared of being touched, has had her personal and safe space completely taken away from her, and is unaware of her own body and where it begins and ends.  There is a special technique we are using based around the T-touch technique to help her very slowly allow and hopefully enjoy being handled again.

It reminds me of when Cat and I used to work on allowing safe touch between us.  The T-touch technique uses three fingers.  Cat and I started off with one finger.  We would touch her hand or arm, or we would touch finger tips/link fingers and that was intense enough back then.  Obviously we have come a long way since then though parts of me still touch her with one finger as a way of showing affection.

Whilst working with these traumatised dogs, constantly in the back of my mind is “but I’m just one person, how am I showing them the world around them is safe now when I am just one person?”.  Yet I know this process works.  I know the process of having an entirely safe person/attachment in your life works to help you feel safe and contained in life more generally, because of Cat.  My progress is proof of the pudding, so to speak.

So it’s about trusting the process.  Trusting that what comes to me naturally in terms of helping anxious/traumatised dogs is enough to better their quality of life.  Trusting that through muddling through all these body boundaries of mine, through all the minor freak outs and triggers, is a way of getting better and finding safety within myself and the immediate world around me.

Story time

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The-Dinosaur-That-Pooped-a-Planet-844x1024The story that Cat chose for us today was something else!! The dinosaur that pooped a planet!!! It was so funny.  It had Alex (loves dinosaurs), Bobby (loves being read to), Alice (loves to laugh), LJ (loves space), and probably a few more littles entirely interested.

I love the fact Cat really chooses the books she reads us- thinking about our likes, but also thinking about the ‘morals’ of the story.  (I also love the fact she always reads ahead and omits words that she knows are trigger words for us- the story rhymed the whole way through except one page, I have no idea what she omitted though I am curious!).

Todays moral was: don’t try to do anything without making sure you eat responsibly before hand!

All twisted up in the story (at least, these are my interpretations) is the fact that to avoid the feelings of hunger and starvation the dinosaur had to binge eat everything in sight and the only way to return to himself, and return home, was to then get rid of it all with nasty consequences.  I have no idea if the writers meant for it to basically outline one of the vicious cycles of someone with an eating disorder, I doubt it.  But whilst the little ones within me enjoyed the story (and pictures!) for what it was, I grabbed at what Cat was trying to tell me very quickly, and smiled at her very well timed choice of story once again.

Feeling little

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I have been feeling very little tonight. My day off from working with the dogs has put me in touch again with the younger parts of me – to the point where they and I merge.

“Feeling little” is something I hear a lot in dissociation/DID circles but I think everyone feels little-er sometimes. My therapist talks about a 7 year old part of her, but of course not a dissociated part to the degree DID’ers feel it. Her voice doesn’t change. She doesn’t lose her adult sense of self completely. She just recognises that a part of her got stuck there at that age and that’s normal, when people are able to admit it to themselves. It just means she will wrap up in a blanket and watch a film, to take care of that part.

For me its a little more than that. Feeling little means I lose my adult sense of self. My work with the dogs feels like another persons life, because it is very dissociated from me right now. I want nothing more than to curl up with Cat and have a story read to me. I am sure that will be part of the session tomorrow unless something happens to drastically alter my inner world. Its not that I don’t want to do adult stuff right now it’s that I can’t. Everything I am doing is born out of trauma. Trauma that at the age I am feeling didn’t happen all that long ago.

Talking to Cat on the phone to say goodnight my age was going up and down between very little to just little. I can recognise the different parts I was merging with at separate moments in time. This is nothing new. This isn’t a state that I have been encouraged into because of therapy. I’m used to this. Voice changes within myself. Thought changes. Impulse changes etc. Its been happening for as long as I can remember. The only difference is now I’m able to understand and recognise it for what it is. The only difference is now I have someone who understands and cares enough to listen to me whatever age I am feeling. Someone who gives me their undivided attention whether I’m 1 or 101.

It makes such a difference to my healing, my days. I no longer get “stuck” in little parts because I can “feel little”, be heard, then it all moves on. Everything keeps going, everything flows and that is such a luxury for me.

Having a ‘me day’

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Today my body is on Cats side.

Yesterday Cat asked me to take today off because she recognises when I am ‘running on empty’.  She is very aware of how exhausting it is living with PTSD/DID/phobias/anorexia, going through a massive healing journey, and also engaging with the other bits of my life that I have thrown myself into.  At first I was a bit dismissive of the idea – I am stronger now, I thought, I need to keep going, I can’t stop and stand still, I have responsibilities.  

I recognise now though that my body is screaming for some rest.  I haven’t exactly been treating it very well recently, I have lost a whole bunch of weight, so I am not really as strong as I perhaps think I am.  And whilst it is great I am so passionate about the healing journey of the dogs I work with, I cannot forget my own.

In my tired weakened state yesterday evening I went to visit my parents which unfortunately left me fighting flashbacks as I tried to get to sleep last night.  My father has some very strong, very wrong views about child discipline, and to this day believes that physical ‘discipline’ aka abuse is the answer.  Hearing him talk with such cruelty yesterday bought it up for me, and also reminded me that the comfort blanket I sometimes tell myself: “my father didn’t want to abuse me, the mother made him” is completely and utterly wrong and has been stripped off me leaving me feeling very bare and vulnerable.

In response yesterday all I could point out was that I work with dogs who have been abused that way, in fact I also have adopted one, and it clearly doesn’t help one little bit.  Same for children.  His response was “yes but dogs don’t understand why you’re giving them a good walloping”.  It really is completely justified in his mind and my mother just sat there squirming in her seat, probably thinking of the email conversations we have had about how badly I felt I was treated and how wrong I felt it was.  Here was the father reminding me that it wasn’t wrong, it was all sorts of right.  I was triggered into silence about the subject very quickly.

One day I hope to be able to stand up for myself and say “father, you’re wrong, that is how you treated me and that is why I am the way that I am” but unfortunately he is very quick to anger, and very volatile, and to be honest I don’t even feel safe to do that.  Plus I know it won’t make any difference at all to his thoughts.  So all in all I doubt it will ever happen.

So, I can’t forget that whilst I’m trying to soothe abuse and emotional distress out of the dogs, I need to also give myself space to soothe it out of me too.  Starting with a bowl of porridge and a nice long bath.  Here we go :)

Hoarding

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This is what happens when you were kept in your bedroom for months on end with no access to water except from the bathroom tap when you could risk running to it. 15 years later and I’m hoarding water bottles by my bed because I never want to drink from a tap again and I never ever want to be thirsty and unable to drink again! I bit the bullet though tonight and finally put them in the recycling bin (all 28 of them).  I know I have plentiful supply of water here in the present day. I don’t need to hoard. Go me.  P.s I hoard biscuits too. Same as above only food isn’t available from bathroom taps! 

Small steps

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One of the dogs I am working with at the moment is incredibly nervous about the world.  She doesn’t like leaving her kennel without her kennel mate, she doesn’t like new people, she doesn’t even like new objects in her kennel.  I bought us a treat puzzle that we could work on and even just having the brightly coloured thing in her kennel when it normally isn’t was enough to make her shy away and hide.  With a tonne of encouragement and positive reinforcement I managed to get her to take a treat off the top of the puzzle and for one day that was quite enough. The best, most long-lasting work is done slowly and gently – and there is no rush.

Cat is doing similar work with me/us at the moment.  She brought in lunch for us today as agreed on Friday.  Like my working dog I literally hid from the food, under two blankets, one not even being enough.  Eventually, after about an hour of being in the room I was able to ask Cat to put a tiny bit in a bowl and then put it in my line of view so I could at least see it.  I felt dirty, ill and shameful just looking at it.  As I think we’ve established by now Cat is my primary attachment figure and in the past my primary attachment figure made me feel all those things, and more, around deserving food, needing food, wanting food.  So it makes sense that all those things are going to be revisited within the dynamics of our relationship with Cat.

It really would have been okay if I couldn’t have managed to eat any of it.  Cat made that very clear right from go and I believed her.  To be honest, and this gives me hope, the thing that was pushing me to go ahead and eat it was because it looked really rather scrummy and I wanted to give it a taste! I purposefully hadn’t eaten all morning so my tummy was pretty much screaming at me (which Cat could hear too) to let it have something.  I didn’t really have to battle with the guilt of eating it with regards to the fact it was food and had calories.  Though portion size was an issue as even just finishing the small bowl she gave me made me feel greedy.  Yet I did finish it.  And neither of us expected that.

Like my working dog though it wasn’t a complete success straight away.  The only way I could even pick up the fork and attempt to put it in my mouth was if Cat was out the room.  Bless her, she sat on the other side of the closed door, because having her able to see me was just a big no go.  I ate half, and then felt I needed to ‘ask permission’ before finishing it off.  My mother has left me with a bit of a complex around food – eating it all up is wrong, but leaving some is also wrong.  The guilt of Cat walking back in and able to see an empty bowl before me was pretty huge, but not unmanageable.  We got through it.

It felt really nice to have Cat praise us though.  To have her recognise that to eat a simple lunch like that I have to battle food fears, paranoid thoughts, emetophobia, anorexia, and all those fucked up belief systems my mother left me with.  Having your achievements recognised is really special, especially when they are achievements that the majority of people take for granted as mere routines.

Trauma processing

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Sometimes it feels really cliche what your eating disorder symptoms are telling you. Last night was one of those times.

I am emetophobic, pretty damn severely.  Sometimes I take anti-emetics like sweets because there is just no way I will ever allow myself to be sick.  So when my brain is telling me to make myself sick, and not just that, but making me feel like I need to in order to feel okay, I know that the anorexia has turned my own brain against me and is currently overruling everything.

Cat and I were due to speak anyway to say goodnight as we often do so I told her how agitated I was feeling – wanting to be sick, but knowing that it would trigger me, and knowing that it’s absolutely not worth it, so feeling like I needed to harm myself instead.  I think Cat was pretty shocked – she is often bombarded with late night attacks of “I am really scared I’m going to be sick” but this was a new one to her.  It’s not a new one to me but it’s very rare and often triggered by some pretty awful emotional shit inside that I am trying to purge away.

The root of it all was feeling stuck and submerged in the year of my life with the abusive ex housemate.  Remembering how, at the time, my mentor would sit across from me, able to see the bruises and hear the stories, and not be able to make me see that I was in a very very bad place and needed to get out.  Looking back it is obvious to me now that she was extremely toxic and abusive but back then I explained it all away.  I explained it all away like I did the parental abuse from my childhood.  And quite scarily, the abuse from the parents, and the abuse from the ex housemate had some really awful parallels.

So I had all of those memories bubbling under the surface last night and the need to purge was, quite simply, the need to get that all out of me.  So I did get it all out of me, via words, to Cat.  Not all of it as there is so much there that needs to be said, but enough for that yucky restlessness to disappear.  We have realised that year of my life needs more attention in therapy.  Cat knows of some of the events that happened but she doesn’t know “the story”.  Apparently it is particularly important for her to know how it all started, and how it all ended.

It won’t be easy.  Here is someone who scares me more than my mother.  When I had left but was still bumping into her around town the panic attack would leave me on the floor. I don’t get jelly legs around my mother because I have spent enough time with her now minus the weapons, sadistic games, and abuse to grow some strength in my core.  But her, no.  And compared to my mother she feels far more dangerous.  My mother is one of those people who used their power to scare me as a child but now I can see is just a very unwell coward.  With this ex housemate I have seen, and been victim of, some really fucked up things.  **Trigger warning – mentions of specific abusive events** For example, the housemate didn’t just hold the weapons, she used them.  She didn’t just stage a strangulation, she almost killed something.

But it is a part of my life that needs to be talked about.  It is a part of my life where I was exceptionally vulnerable and isolated and I don’t want to have that toxic waste living in me anymore.

Dissociative Identity Disorder

Bourbon:

I think this post is well worth a read. It touches on so many issues that are important to clarify within DID. Some may disagree with what is said but I agree very much and I really appreciate the clear articulation of my beliefs!

Originally posted on Heathers Helpers:

Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) is portrayed in the media as some sort of wacky, wild, really cool to watch phenomenon. If that isn’t their angle? They are usually discussing the controversy of the diagnoses. I understand all that but I feel that perhaps if I share what it means to me, it will take the confusion out of it for some people. I can try right?

Everyone has multiple personalities/identities. Yes, even you.
If you stop to think about it, you are not the same when out with your friends as you would be if you were out with your children. You are different with your spouse than you would be with your parents. You can become professional at work then transform to a carefree spirit when you go out for an evening with your best buddy. Even your pets get a different side of you. Yeah… I know all…

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<3

I don’t talk about my partner here very much. This space has always been about therapy, and Cat and I, and I am not a romantic person in the slightest. I guess right now I’m going to break that mould though.

…because my partner may spend too long idly sitting on the toilet…
…he may suffer from a bad case of technology-itis…
…he may infuriate me at times with his snail pace…
…he may try to keep the peace when I’m thick in war…

But he brings me food and drink when I’m ill
He let’s me custard pie his face for no reason whatsoever
He knows which signals of mine to read as affection
He always knows what to say when I’m in a sticky situation
He will leave work to come home to say something important to my face rather than by text
He will allow my extreme mood swings to come and go and never gets flustered
He never gets angry at me
He doesn’t try to change me
He spent years with me learning about DID and my system
He calls up people when I can’t manage the phone
He goes out to run errands when I cannot
He never pressurises me to do anything

…and he waited two years for me…

Not many men are like that.

I <3 my dipshit.

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