Monday, after that intense yet so detached and dissociated session, I went for a long walk. I thought and I sorted through some of what we talked about. And then I sent Bea an email. (She did eventually respond, acknowledging that she had not gotten to it, and promising she would later in the day. Her responses are in italics and quotes.)
You asked me about sleep and eating. Sleep, we covered. Really, I think in some ways I sleep worse when I’m not dealing with feelings and stuff, I’m more restless in sleep, more anxious. I have more nightmares sometimes, when I don’t talk about things– like camping and Ferris wheels and all that ugly stuff. But really, the main thing is I don’t sleep and I do it to myself because I fight sleep. I can take a Benadryl and be almost knocked out from it and still fight falling asleep. So, it’s my own doing. Eating…..I don’t know. I don’t want to talk about it. I feel like maybe at some point we have to, and for some reason that scares me as much as talking about the trauma stuff scares me. It’s almost like that is where I have safety and control and I am not giving that up completely, or even risking the idea of giving it up, or even going to make myself vulnerable enough to really talk about eating stuff.
“I think you have to separate talking about it from feeling that anything has to change. First we have to make it real–right now I feel like it dwells in this shadowy land where you–and I–can pretend it doesn’t exist. But it does! It’s very real, and while it’s giving you a sense of control, from the outside it appears more that it’s controlling you. We need to do some work with it as it is now, not as we’d like it to be. That’s not real either! What is it right now? It’s meaning, it’s shape, it’s color. What are it’s attributes? We need to make it real, to put it on your circle as part of who Alice is. No judgement, just what it is.
We should continue talking about–and trying things–with sleep too.”
And you asked about being present or dissociated. I said I didn’t know, and then I said it was sort of both. But then Hagrid and I went for a nice long walk, and I really thought about it. And I have a messy, confusing answer.
I am present but not. It’s strange, and I’m not even sure I have the language to describe it, to explain it. It’s like I’m split, somehow. Part of me is away and not here and everything in my life that is going on has a very unreal quality to it. And part of me is present, at least on the surface, and able to function and be “normal” and here, even if there isn’t much feeling or emotion attached to what is going on. It’s like I’ve found a box to bury, or store, all those feelings and emotions in. And I guess depending which part I’m more aware of at any given time kind of influences my answer to the “internal weather report” question. But if I really were to take a step back, it would be more that I’ve split things; the me who is not here and none of this feels real, and the me who is present and has to function on the surface and all the feelings are buried and boxed up. I had to think about this, because answering that it felt like both, or that I didn’t know, wasn’t exactly right. I just wasn’t sure how to explain. And now I think I figured out how to explain it, and I feel crazy. I feel like this sounds crazy.
“I think being split is a very accurate description in many ways. It’s very helpful when you have the ability to put things in a container–this is a good skill, not crazy!”
You didn’t see me being far away this summer, and really, you wouldn’t have. I wasn’t, and I was. It was just far enough away to function. But…there is that feeling of, I KNOW we went camping, I KNOW I rode on the Ferris wheel, I KNOW that there were a lot of changes this summer. I KNOW that Kat and I swam a lot and she swims like a fish now, and I KNOW I took Kat to school on her first day and left her her even though she was upset. But it might as well be someone else’s life I’m talking about, it doesn’t feel quite real, it’s not….I don’t know. I mean, I have it all organized and in control and people are impressed by how on top of things I am,but I might as well be talking about someone else’s life I organized. But oh my word is that a crazy, scary thing to really put into words and then write down on paper. And then to share….ugh. I don’t know. It just sounds crazy making.
“It has worked when you needed it to. That’s what I was referring to in terms of feeling more confident when things start spinning out of control–you have a coping state that you can get back to.”
Mostly, especially the last two weeks, I’ve felt like I’m balancing on a high wire without a net, very precariously and that I have to be very careful to keep this balance and not fall over either direction. I suppose that might be leading to more anxiety, or panic, or something. I don’t know. But I think if that box of feelings gets open, I will fall off the wire. And that’s not even thinking about all the mess that fall brings with it. Or the fact that I can’t add my Grandpa’s death to my map, or my own personal stuff to the map. It’s almost like starting over, in some ways; I’ve spent the whole summer fairly locked down, detached from myself in some ways and my feelings and emotions and even, in some ways, I guess, my life, and now all of that is past, and therapy can resume, but it’s like I forgot how to find where I buried my feelings, where I buried the past– be it the recent past or the distant past. It’s like the break was needed so that I could get Kat through the transitions, but now I’m not sure how to do this anymore. And I’m afraid. I’m afraid I’ll end up overwhelmed. I’m afraid I will fall apart. I’m afraid that because I was “fine” and “okay” and made it through this summer with no issue, no breakdowns or falling apart, that’s expected now. Now I HAVE to be be okay, no matter what. Because now you really know I can be okay. And that’s probably not what you meant, about the summer showing us things about therapy, but now….it seems like that is what you meant, or something like it. Like your expectations have changed, or you see that I can really be okay, no matter what is going on. Ugh. So I can’t even try to find that box, or talk bad dreams, or talk eating or anything because I might fall apart. And then what? It’s not okay. I guess the cost of always being okay is that I can’t deal with feelings and emotions and anything else. I can only deal with concrete, day to day, functional daily living things. Nothing deeper. Because then I will be break into pieces, and I might not function as well, or something. This is so frustrating. Like I’m caught between worlds; now I’m aware of some of these things, but I’m too afraid to change it or do something different, where before I wasn’t aware of it at all. I don’t know. And I guess the cost of being okay is nightmares, and not sleeping or sleeping restless, and having moments of panic during the day where I can’t breathe and the eating stuff and whatever else. But maybe that’s not so bad.
“Well, now we can really start to open up the container slowly and continue working on all this–but trying to preserve your functioning as much as we can while still moving on with this. I could feel the stress of the last two weeks. It was real, legitimate stress!!! Anybody would have been precariously balanced!”
Is any of this making any sense whatsoever? I feel like I just keep trying and trying to explain how I feel, and I’m not sure it makes sense, that it even can make sense to someone else. Or maybe I’m afraid it just sounds crazy. Maybe both. And maybe, this is just life, and I’m being a drama queen. Plenty of parents sending their kids to school had changes and transitions this summer and whatever, and aren’t all kinds of crazy like I am. Which is hard for me. Because I feel like I should logically be able to deal with this stuff and not be split, or dissociated, or detached, or whatever else. Faking normal wasn’t working, I couldn’t hide everything from myself or anyone else anymore. So I came to therapy. And now I can see things I didn’t before, and I can feel my feelings and name them, and I’m more aware than I used to be. But I’m still not “normal.” Or maybe I’m just….I don’t know. Making a big deal out of things. Ugh.
“It all makes a whole lot of sense! I’m going to send this now as I’m out of time to write.”
And then she didn’t respond. I was anxious and vulnerable and feeling left. I don’t know, exactly. But I couldn’t reach out to her. Maybe I needed to see if she would respond on her own; a kind of test. One she sort of, eventually passed. Because she did respond. But it was so much later than usual, and the first thing I put out there, that I opened up about, she didn’t seem as attuned as she once was. I don’t know. Maybe I am really losing it, or looking for reasons to avoid opening up again. But I feel….hurt. Like she left me, or like I’m lower on her list of priorities now that she knows I can be okay, no matter what. I don’t know. I have therapy in the morning, and I feel rather like a sulky teenager, angry that I “have” to go. I don’t like this feeling, this fear, any of this. I wanted her to pass this test….this stupid test that I didn’t even see as a test until now. But I wanted her to pass it, so I would know for sure it’s okay, and safe to talk. But she didn’t exactly pass. Now what?