For the past several weeks, I have felt extremely nervous each time I have gone to my therapy session.  Since I have been seeing this therapist for over a year and a half now, I noted the nervousness, noted that it seemed odd but determined that it probably was not related to the relationship between my therapist and me, and then figured “Que Sera, Sera” (roughly “what will be, will be”), as Doris Day sang on Your Hit Parade, the weekly radio program that my friends and I followed religiously in the 1950s.  Knowing how I process material in therapy, normally from my right brain to my left brain, I figured that whatever trauma information was lurking in the right side of my brain that needed to manifest itself was getting ready to do that.  However, I had not figured that the manifestation would be so upsetting and so horrible! 

My therapy appointment is at 1:30, so I caught my bus at noon yesterday, knowing that I would easily make my appointment with time to spare for my crossword puzzle.  I like to center myself in the waiting room by working on the puzzle printed each morning in the Portland Oregonian.  By the time I arrived at the bus transfer point, however, I was feeling “odd.”  I wasn’t feeling dizzy or sick or in pain; I was simply feeling “odd.”  Because I still deal with occasional PTSD symptoms such as spaciness and flashbacks, “odd” doesn’t alarm me, so I sat down in the bus shelter and hoped the feeling would pass quickly. 
  
Bus 8 arrived, and I knew I needed to get into it, but I had a problem, very likely the same problem Alice had when she drank from the bottle labeled “Drink Me”:  the world I saw through my eyes was not the world I normally saw.  The lines that normally are parallel to the earth were slanted and actively tipping, like a teeter-totter, and the lines that normally are perpendicular to the earth were leaning, tipped in all directions.  I looked at the bus, saw it tilted oddly, and tried to figure out where to put my feet.  I did my best to put my feet where I needed to put them in order to get on and find a seat, and then I managed to tumble onto an empty place.  After I had sat down, I looked around me at the other passengers, wondering if any of them had noticed my awkward entrance, but nobody had. 

As the bus progressed toward my stop, I had a chance to breathe deeply and get myself calmed down.  I was not dizzy—the world was not whirling around in my brain.  My memory was intact, and I knew perfectly well where I was and where I was going.  And slowly the “Drink Me” sensation went away.  Then I remembered that in the past I had had episodes of what psychologists call “derealization,” times when reality doesn’t seem what it is supposed to be.  The world outside my head does not look like it should.  In fact, Lewis Carroll did such a great job of describing the sensation of derealization in Through the Looking Glass that I sometimes wonder if he suffered from trauma! 

During my session, I described this experience to my therapist.  She suggested that I use colored pencils and paper and see what evolved.  Since I have learned that I can easily access the memories and emotions lodged in the right side of my brain if I write or draw with my non-dominant hand, I sat down, took a red pencil, and began to write.  What I wrote absolutely blew me away!

If you have read my website and my blog articles, you know I was violently sexually assaulted by the neighbor woman when I was between four and five years old, 1943 or 1944.  I effectively repressed this memory until 1980, when I had a flashback and remembered the basics of the assault.  Over a period of twenty years, I remembered more and more until I thought I had captured the whole awful memory.  Boy, was I ever wrong about that!

What I wrote with my left hand on Monday in my therapist’s office horrified both my therapist and me.  My message said something like this:  That woman told me that she had magical powers and that even when I couldn’t see her looking into my bedroom from her kitchen window, she could still see me and watch everything I did.  She could tell by watching me if I was telling anyone about what she had done to me, and if I told, then she would find me and kill me—dead!  And what would my parents do with a dead little girl?  They wouldn’t want me at all, and they would put me in a box and bury me in the ground.  So I had better not tell anyone!   And for forty-some years, I didn’t tell.  Anyone!  Not my parents, my Godparents, my friends—not anyone!

Wow!  Did this explain a lot!!  I remember as a child always having the feeling of having “butterflies in my stomach.”  That feeling made me antsy when I was awake and busy, and at night, I had a hard time sleeping.  Even my kindergarten teacher noticed my nervousness and noted it on my report card, although she dismissed my nervousness as “growing so fast.”  I was scared a lot of the time when I was a child, but I never really understood why I was scared.  All I knew was that I had that feeling of being scared and had nothing to cite as a cause for my fears. In junior high school, every time the teacher closed the classroom door, my stomach would lurch, and I would run to the bathroom to be sick.  I had no idea why I did this.  I learned, however, that I could walk out of school and simply go home without consequences, so I did this frequently.  Nobody ever said anything to me about skipping school, and I never told.  I was so happy to be home by myself where I could have peace and quiet with no doors shutting, no kids and teachers, and no people to notice my discomfort.

I grew into an adult diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.  Nevertheless, I coped with life and took no medication for my anxiety.  I graduated from college, survived twenty years of spousal abuse, raised two kids to adulthood, survived the divorce process, earned straight A grades in two graduate programs, retired from community college teaching, and here I am, a senior citizen getting help for Complex PTSD and writing about the experience.

The memory of this experience, awful and horrible as it is, is an essential ingredient in my healing process.  Now, for example, I understand so much more about why I have always been afraid of confiding in most people and why I trusted nobody, not even my parents, when I was a child.  Even yet, today, as a senior citizen,  my trust level is low. That’s a fact.  And the feeling I have had of not fitting into the world may be at least partially explained by this experience.  After all, a child living and reaching adulthood with such a monstrous untold secret truly would feel marked, like a leper in filthy rags wandering in a world full of shiny, unblemished holy beings.  That is how I have felt all my life! 
 
Why am I telling you, my reader, about this experience?  Because I want you to know that it is important to have faith in your brain’s/mind’s ability to heal itself.  If you truly want to heal from trauma, you will.  But if you do not have faith in your own healing powers, the process will take longer.  Your mind is the vault where your healing powers are located, and this same vault contains the materials upon which your healing depends.  If you have faith in your mind’s ability to process these materials and heal, then your healing will follow its natural course.  It will happen.  That’s the way we humans are made.  Your therapist can support your process, and your therapist can support you when you get frustrated with the process, but you alone have the key to your own healing.  It’s up to you to unlock the memories as they need to be unlocked.  If you are patient, attend to the still, small voice of your intuition, and have courage, healing will happen. 

Advertisements